Anger & Aggression in School-aged Children

Parent Q&A

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  • 6-year-old grandchild's tantrums

    (3 replies)

    My daughter's kids, 8 and 6, are with her ex-husband--separated several years ago, divorced in 2019--about 40% of the time, but on a very irregular schedule. He is a paramedic who might have them for 3 days, then not at all for 5 days, then 5 p.m. until 8 a.m. for one day, etc. He tries to be a good dad, but is often too tired to pay enough attention. The 6-year-old boy is a bright, introverted kid who seldom wants to talk about his feelings. He has friends, and gets along well with his big sister for the most part. While his teacher says he's doing fine, he's been having melt-downs at home for the last few months, several times a week or more, and friends have suggested to my daughter that she have him assessed for various syndromes and disorders.

    Her ex- is a decent-enough guy who also tends to be negative, sometimes whiny ("I can't buy them new shoes; I'm almost broke."), and has threatened to take her to court to demand 50% custody. He makes considerably more money than she, and seems to spend a lot of it on electronic toys. My daughter is a decent person as well, and talks to him politely, but she's usually tense with anger and frustration after dropping the kids off at their father's. They love both parents, of course, and dislike seeing their father so erratically.

    I don't think either one disses the other much in front of their children these days, but I know how good kids are at intuiting their parents' emotions--and overhearing phone conversations, etc. My daughter is a perfectionist who comes to me for both advice and approval. I want to ask whether she keeps track of the tantrums: when they happen, after what event or change, etc. I'd like to bark, "Family therapy, NOW!" but that's easier for me to say than for her to make happen, for various reasons. (I've barked it before.)

    My brother is a experienced family social worker, and has talked about our late sister's being the child who acted out our own mother's anger and frustration with our alcoholic father. I think that might be happening here, to some degree. And I wouldn't blame my grandson for being angry on his own account. Obviously it's not my situation to fix, but I wonder whether anyone out there has some insight and advice.

    P.S. When my grandson is ready to calm down, he frequently asks his mother to read him Shel Silverstein's poetry; he enjoys the rhythms and the absurd humor. I don't know what this means, but I'm sending more Shel and Kipling and other kids' poets.

    In terms of “biblotherapy” Kevin Henkes and Ursula K. LeGuin have written some wonderful books. In other terms, I think encouraging therapy is a good idea, and subsidizing it would be wonderful if you have the resources. 

    My own children also love Shel Silverstein and are similar ages so I'd like to suggest the Shel Silverstein CD. Silverstein reads his own poetry, it has sound effects and is delightful - please check your local library or I have a copy that I'm happy to lend you. I'm sorry that I don't have advice for the tantrums - but it's wonderful that the children have loving parents and grandparents in their lives, looking to find ways to support them. 

    Dear Grandma i am a grandmother in a similar situation. I am the mother of the father, but have a fairly impartial view of both parents. I love my daughter-in-law, and see the faults of my son with clear eyes. Divorce is so hard on kids. Our hearts break for them. My little "broken-family" has profited a great deal from mandated court-ordered counseling, both for the parents and for the kids. The parents have been ordered into co-parent counseling (separately), and the kids have had counseling, also. The key was a good agency, and good counselors. Your son-in-law's erratic schedule seems to complicate matters. Predictability seems to help. Wonder if he can opt for a more predictable schedule. They parents communicate exclusively on "Talking Parents" so there is a record of communications to be used in court.

  • I have two children. My younger child has anxiety and Aspberger's, and can be aggressive, including toward their older sibling.

    My older child, age 10, is kind, lovely, sad about getting hit by their younger sibling, and won't talk to me about it....or anything these days.

    I'm looking for a child therapist who can break through to this "in-between" pre-teen age....not quite ready for talk therapy but on the older end of play therapy....

    Proximity to Berkeley/Oakland is preferred.

    Thank you.

    Whitney Pepper specializes in siblings of children with disabilities and has been so helpful to us. She's currently in SoCal but doing great work via Zoom.  whitney.pepper.therapy [at] 

    Sibshops put on by Social Learning Works in Marin was a great help to our family. Similar situation. Feel free to use my name with Allie -- Andrea DeRochi

    This sounds so hard!

    may I suggest Family Therapy instead of individual counseling? At 10years old, your child might feel penalized (or blamed) if they have to start individual counseling, even though this is clearly not your intent. 
    we have had a great experience in working through our family dynamics (older son with ASD, much younger sibling bearing brunt of atypical sibling relationship/behavior) with Sheri Glucoft-Wong in Berkeley. 
    feel free to contact me individually if you want. 
    best wishes. 

  • How to make sure my child isn’t a jerk?

    (12 replies)

    Hi BPN community, I am hoping someone can offer advice. We are open to anything from therapy, counseling, parenting seminars, etc. Please only constructive advice as it is the season of kindness :)

    My child is almost 8 and exhibits a lot of less than desirable traits. They have tantrums on a daily basis over many things (mainly when they don’t get their way) and become completely unhinged (think baby Jack Jack becoming bursting into flames). They also do not seem to have an understanding of gratitude or remorse which is frustrating as that’s not how we have been raising them, although will admit to overindulgence at times, especially during COVID. 

    We aren’t sure whether this is normal for this age, but their sibling does not behave this way. While nature vs nurture certainly has a greater impact than I ever believed before having children, we definitely feel that they need stronger guidance as this behavior will not be tolerated in the long run. They only act this way at home, not in public or with friends. 

    Thank you!

    Hi call mom I have a very intense child who is now 18 and was recently diagnosed with ASD. Around eight years old I was worried about his behaviors and then we ended up doing lots of different kinds therapy, some of which helped, but I wish I had taken him to a developmental pediatrician at that age and really gotten a clear picture of what was going on. Your child may have anxiety, sensory issues, ASD, or something else. I really wish I had known about the ASD when my kid was young. 
    I would have had a lot more compassion and been able to seek out strategies that really worked. I’m not saying your kid has ASD but just that the daily tantrums are showing that something is really not working for your kid and it’s worth it to find out what it is so that your child can be happy. I wish you and your family well. 

    I hear you and my heart goes out to you. Sounds like your child is "discharging" and emotionally "dysregulated" -- we unsuccessfully worked on this for years with my son before getting a diagnosis of autism spectrum. It's really hard to live in the neurotypical world as a person with ASD (I've heard it described as feeling like the only sober person in a room full of people who are drunk) and it's really hard to parent a child with ASD: intuition doesn't work. We thought our son was a complete jerk most of the time, because we didn't get it. But there are so many excellent (and COMPASSIONATE) resources to learn how to raise a child w ASD. I recommend getting a neuropsych eval: it has changed our entire approach to parenting our son.

    First off, you're a great parent to notice this and be concerned. While the temperaments of 8 year old's vary greatly, the lack of remorse or gratitude (which by the sounds of it you likely demonstrate with them) would also be concerning to me. Lack of remorse implies a lack of empathy. My kids were also born with very different personalities but they developed empathy pretty early on (as toddlers). I'd suggest an evaluation by a competent child psychologist to see what challenges your little one may be working with, and then proceed to help them. Good luck to you!!

    Hi! Are we parenting the same kids and don’t know it?! I have an 8year that behaves in very similarly. Defiant and entitled is how I’d describe mine. It has been suggested to me to keep clear expectations, follow through with consequences and not to reward tantrums w attention. We’re working on it. Not surprising he reserves this behavior for you. I’ve heard kids behave the worse for their parents because they know that no matter what, you’ll always love them. See...silver lining, they’re confident in your love for them. Good luck! And hey, if it doesn’t work out...our kids can hang out and be jerks together!

    Hi there. I’m not a professional, but that behavior at that frequency doesn’t sound typical for that age to me. For sure kids that age are sometimes ungrateful self-centered pains in the rear and can throw huge tantrums, but it really shouldn’t be a daily thing.

    During COVID both of our kids (close in age to yours) have started showing undesirable and concerning behaviors though not quite as extreme. Hands down the most helpful thing we have done is put them into a daily after school camp with other kids. This addressed a large part of their unmet needs that were clearly driving the behavior. We also have one of our children seeing the school therapist over Zoom at the recommendation of that child’s teacher. It is free since it’s through the school, but I don’t think we would have been able to utilize the service if that child wasn’t disruptive during class and causing problems for the teacher during distance learning. The therapy has also been helpful, but not as helpful as making sure they have regular interaction with peers.

    It’s certainly worth asking the school for assistance and recommendations. If they can’t assist, look into a therapist for the child and a family therapist for yourselves. Sometimes it’s not you, it’s the child. But a family therapist can help you better understand how you can support the child with the problem and provide recommendations for how to react that can improve the situation rather than reinforce the bad behavior.

    I hear you. This post resonated with me. My almost 8-year-old behaves this way too once in a while. We have made it a point to give them advance warning if things are not going to go their way for something. Whenever there is a surprise sprung on them which is against what they wished/hoped for, there are more chances of a meltdown. So we tag team and tend to drop hints/clues early itself. Looking forward to the discussion on this.

    We’ve run into similar issues. Check out “The Explosive Child,” “Siblings without Rivalry,” and “Easy to Love, Difficult to Discipline” in that order. I also love the Aha parenting blog. We’ve been using the principles from these resources over the past month and have seen a big improvement for our 5 year old.

    My heart just skipped several beats. I posted this very same cry for help about 11 years ago, when my son was almost 8. By that time the behaviors and my concerns had been going on for several years. My son is now 19 and it has been a very long difficult journey, and we continue to have bumps in the path to maturity . Knowing what I know now, I could have done so much more to help my son and my family.  Please get in touch with my via the moderator if you would like to talk. 

    Best wishes.

    I don’t know if its normal, but my kid is a lot like this, too! He’s 14 and we’ve been talked to him about his behavior until we’re blue in the face and it hasn’t helped much. Therapy seemed mildly helpful and maturity has helped the most. However, he remains certain that things should go his way, he will argue and push and absolutely exhaust us to get his way. And he might explode if they don’t. (That Jack Jack reference is so apt.. he gets a wild, unhinged look in his eyes when he blows). He doesn’t blow up as often and he can calm down and apologize more quickly as he gets older. He’s an intense person all around - anger, love, excitement, sadness.. it’s all big. His sibling is very different. He’s a tough kid to parent. I wish u all the best.

    My son has ADHD.  In his case it made it harder to make connections with other kids.  Which was disheartening and confusing to him.  Big feelings.  Still becomes unhinged at times, well, in ways that I can't say are normal as compared to other kids.  He is a kind, caring person.  But the world gave him harsh lessons.  One example is that I would yell at him for losing yet another jacket (he lost about 4 in one year), but later he had a neuropsychologist assessment, and she said that is a thing ADHD kids do, along with him not finishing his meals and eating them bit by bit later.  So in his case, he did not need stronger guidance, but more understanding and strategies to cope with the ADHD symptoms.  I just wanted to mention about my son, as a possibility, but it could be totally something different.  Good luck.

    Your son sounds a lot like my oldest son when he was 8 years old.  For so many years, my husband and I wondered what happened because our second child is so different.  Have you ever heard of the term "spirited child"?  I'm not saying your son is spirited, but first I'd recommend reading "Raising Your Spirited Child" by Mary Sheedy Kurcinka (or listen to the audio book) to give you some background information.  Then I'd recommend working with Rebecah Freeling of Wits End Parenting in Berkeley,  When my son was 8, we started working with her, and Rebecah helped our entire family set a foundation of how to communicate and work together when you have a spirited child in your home.  Chores and buy-in to family chores were also key when we worked with Rebecah.  I'm not going to say parenting my spirited child now is a walk in the park, but I understand him better and try to be more empathetic to his intensity.  He is also a very picky eater and we recently transitioned him to a gluten-free and dairy-free diet which has helped immensely.  Good luck and stay strong, mama!

    I responded to the other question about 5yr old hating to lose! I’ve worried endlessly about my 15-yr old who also blows up when things don’t go his way. The Jack-Jack analogy is so perfect. My guy has been like this since he was a toddler. He’s strong-willed, competitive, never backs down and is just absolutely certain he’s right and should get his way. He’s mellowed w age and he blows up less. Like your child, this behavior is reserved for family, we get very positive feedback from others. We still talk to him a lot about this behavior.. and model graciousness and gratitude. However, our influence is waning - his peers and future partners will have the most impact! My only advice is to hang in there and pace yourself. Wishing u all the best.

  • Hello, can anyone recommend an anger management therapist for kids? Our son (8.5) has a hard time with his anger and could use some support. Berkeley/Albany would be ideal, but we could go father if needed. Thanks so much in advance for your recommendations.

    I have a similar aged son and we tried talk therapy and lots of strategies that you have probably already employed - blowing out like you're blowing up a balloon, counting to 10, etc... We also have had some luck with Zones of Regulation, which is a color-coded naming system used in schools and also I've seen OTs use it. But despite all the strategies, in the moment my son can go the "red zone" pretty quickly and do things he regrets and that get him in trouble. After years of this, we have found success with an SSRI (Lexapro) - anger is often a secondary reaction, and for my son the primary emotion is actually anxiety. If that sounds familiar, I'd encourage you to see a psychiatrist (we have Kaiser). In my son's case, he also has ASD and ADHD, and the lack of impulse control with ADHD is also a big factor in the explosive behavior. I'd also recommend you read Ross Greene's work. For us, talk therapy wasn't really enough, although I think it's important for helping them cope with big feelings. Good luck!! If it's happening at school, hopefully you can get support there with counseling.

  • Help for a defiant 9 year old

    (1 reply)

    hello, I’m looking for recommendations for a therapist for my nine year old son. I’m a single mom with little to no involvement from my son’s father. My son had recently entered a very challenging phase of attitude and defiance and I’m looking for a therapist who can help my son navigate his anger and help me with some new tools to support him. Hoping to find someone in Albany, Kensington, Berkeley area. Thank you!

    It sounds like your focus is a solution for your child's anger, and if you’re open to a child behavior expert/counselor who is not a psychotherapist, I highly recommendRebecah Freeling. We were introduced to Rebecah through Kaiser are very pleased with our results. She gave us problem-solving tools to support our son’s emotional stability and everyone in our family learned tools to compromise and work as a team. Rebecah’s email is witsendparenting [at] Good luck!

  • Seeking Resources for Explosive Child

    (11 replies)

    We have an 7-year-old daughter who has always been challenging, and it seems to be getting worse as she gets older.  She is extremely inflexible and explosive and is making our lives miserable with her daily yelling, threats, rages, unwillingness to accept any boundaries, and inflexibility.  We have gone to quite a few parenting classes, none of which have been helpful.  We have read numerous parenting books with little success.  Her behavior is within the normal range at school so we are not able to get services there, and Kaiser hasn't been particularly helpful either.  She has no diagnosis.  I have been told by Kaiser that much of her behavior is caused by temperament which we can't hope to change, but I also must believe that there is someone out there who can help.  We feel like we are living with an abuser and we are constantly at wit's end.

    Has anyone here dealt with similar issues and found some success in bringing more peace to their family?  Therapists, groups, parenting classes or methods... anything.  Thank you.

    Therapy, for sure. My SIL sounds very similar to your daughter, and she was completely unbearable to be around up until the last 6 months or so (she's 21 now, but I've known her since she was 15, and she's apparently always been this way). She would be the teenager throwing a tantrum in a restaurant or cursing at her parents on Christmas; it was awful for me as a somewhat outsider, so I can't even imagine how difficult it was for my in-laws.

    She eventually developed a very serious eating disorder during her senior year of high school, which led to my in-laws finally giving her an ultimatum of go to therapy or we won't pay for college. It didn't do much at first, but after a stint at an inpatient facility and finally agreeing to have her see a psychiatrist, the talk therapy plus medication to manage her anxiety (all of the outbursts and the ED stemmed from anxiety about things not being perfect and her being out of control), has significantly improved both her quality of life and that of her family. She still gets worked up from time to time, but it's much less severe and relatively infrequent.

    My husband and I both think that if they'd started her in therapy earlier (at least around middle school age), it would have saved them a world of grief and been so much better for her.

    How is her sleep? Does she have open mouth posture? Is she mouth breathing, snoring, or grinding her teeth at night? There's an informative video called 'Finding Connor Deagan,' that shares why one would ask these questions with regard to behavior. If in your gut it doesn't seem like this is your kid, look into airway issues and sleep. Did Kaiser suggest ADHD assessment? Frustration can come out as defiance. Inflexibility can be related to OCD which can be an ADHD co-factor.

    Wow, this sounds tough! My child was also explosive and controlling but turned out to have anxiety fueling it. We did get help at Kaiser for both the anxiety and parenting. When we backed way off and didn't engage with her rages she would eventually calm down and be reasonable. This may be very different from your child but not engaging when the storm was happening worked for us. We also did some behavior charts, with rewards for positive behaviors, which helped some. The biggest help though was going to therapy together with a really good therapist. She was the third therapist we tried so perhaps you just haven't found the right person yet. We got lucky to find someone at Kaiser. When she left Kaiser we weren't as happy with the replacement. Changing our parenting helped a lot and our daughter, now 14, hasn't been explosive in years. She still struggles with anxiety and depression and is back in individual therapy for that. It is her temperament for sure but as parents, we can help our children manage their challenges a little better. Good luck. It is tough to parent a child with these issues.

    Have you looked into Parent Child Interactive Therapy (PCIT)? It sounds like what you are looking for. I did it through a foster services program. If you google it, you will find at least a few therapists offering it.


    I would suggest the Yale Parenting Center.   They are now accepting new families for distance via skype and in person. They work both with families where there is significant issues and also with regular tantrums and explosiveness.  It sounds like one on one help vs a book could be helpful.  

    Here is a link

    I have no affiliation with them but have used their strategies.  I like they are short term. Goal oriented. 

    Sorry for your troubles.  

    Been there, with two, who are now 14 and 25!  Kaiser was almost no help.  I don't know how they get away with it.  

    One thing that did help with both was earlier bed times and weekend naps, all the way until 10 or 11 years old.  Dysregulated kids can get exhausted trying to maintain.  So bedtime got moved to 7:30 pm along with storytime.  As long as I could make their bedroom dark, they didn't seem to mind the earlier time.

    We also ended up going the medication route.  Insist on a diagnosis (anxiety, ADHD, Spectrum Disorders, depression, mood disorders, etc).  Kaiser has to provide mental health care, as well as physical health.  In writing, request a comprehensive psychological evaluation.  If Kaiser denies you or tells you it is better to wait, follow their internal appeals process until you get one.  If you are not satisfied with the result, request an outside evaluation.  

    Also, hopefully you have family therapy.  And the book, "The Explosive Child," has been invaluable to me.

    Best of luck, it is a long haul but if you can get her help, she can gain tools to make everyone's life easier.

    Have you had her tested for autism? The combination of inflexibility and tantrums makes me think of this. Look for a developmental pediatrician to do the testing. The MIND Institute at UC Davis is also an excellent resource. Check out their website. 


    There is a free Temperament class called, "Living with Spirited Children" that my husband and I found to be incredibly insightful and helpful with our 3.5 year old spirited daughter.  On the first day it was like a giant light bulb went off.  We took home great information and techniques each day.  The class is at Bananas resource center in Berkeley.  It's given by Family Coach Rebekah Freeling of  She also does one on one and family coaching if you need it.  Check her out.  He email is rebecah [at]

    We also have a 7yo, a son, who sounds very much like your daughter, but he has also had behavioral/social trouble/inflexibility challenges at school. Our life is very much centered around him, even though we have a 2yo boy, too. I was at my wit's end last year around this time. I've also looked at every difficult child book and attended a zillion parenting classes and lectures. It's downright overwhelming when you're in the trenches and it's your child. It's also very hard to be a consistent parent when you have a noncompliant/difficult child. After awhile you think it's personal and they are out to get you! 

    Here's what I've learned: when your child is as inflexible as you say, you can't do it by yourself. You need a guide to help steer your ship and involve all the members of the family. Last summer we worked with parent coach Rebecah Freeling based on feedback from this site. I would definitely recommend her because the strategies she recommended and the weekly meetings we had kept us all accountable. It also took the pressure off us as parents introducing a new "parenting tactic" because our son was a member (albeit generally unhappy to be there) of those meetings. In our case Rebecah recommended we meet weekly and plan out the daily schedule (activities, meals, baths - get as specific as needed) including our son in the process and letting him choose some things. She also encouraged us to put family work (dishes, laundry, cleaning up toys, etc) on this schedule. Rebecah had strategies for consequences that really worked with our son when we felt completely powerless. We could definitely use a refresher with her - the weekly meetings with a third party were extremely helpful. In addition to working with Rebecah I recommend that you find ways every day to spend good quality time with your child. I get it, you almost don't want to be around your kid because she is so difficult (believe me, I know), but part of the reason why your child is extra difficult with you is because she so desperately wants your attention - and even negative attention is better than nothing. I guarantee if you put down your phone and REALLY focus on her for 10 minutes a day (and let her know it's special time and she has your complete attention for 10 minutes to do an activity of her choice) you will start seeing your sweet child again. She will fight you at first because she will not believe it's real but once she sees you really mean what you say she will blossom with your attention. Also make time to naturally cuddle/touch her positively.  

    We recently completed a neuropsych evaluation of our son and learned that anxiety plays a huge role in his life - this might explain why he's so inflexible and why not knowing what's next or not having things his way is downright scary to him - food for thought. Invest in household help, housecleaner and regular babysitter so you have more time to recharge and give your attention to your child. I know my firstborn will never be easygoing but improvements can be made. If you don't do something about the current extreme you have; it will be that much harder when your child is older, less malleable and the stakes are higher. Good luck to us both :)

    I took an amazing course called Positive Parenthood at the Wellspring Learning Center in Walnut Creek.  It's taught by Robin Hague (robinhaugeclinic [at] who does an amazing job giving the parents tools on how to deal with their children.  The premise is that all children are different so some tools work better than others depending on the child.  She also has you take video of your interactions with your child and will provide feedback in terms of what went well and also how you can better approach each tricky situation.  The change doesn't happen overnight but I really learnt a lot from the class and found it very useful.  It is offered once a year by the school around October.  

    Push Kaiser for an evaluation, or pay for one out of pocket. I could have written the same thing about my son..... he's a perfect student at school, rarely acting out. But at home, a different story. As he got older, some learning differences became more apparent and finally, at age 10, he's been diagnosed with ADHD. His school would never have considered evaluating him because he's high-achieving, academically. Might be the same reason Kaiser isn't suggesting it. But neuropsych evaluation gave us tons of insight into how his brain works and why he acts the way he does..... and now we have something to work with. 

  • Explosive Child seeking help

    (3 replies)

    hello. I have 7yo twins and a 5 yo. My 7yo son is explosive and angry OR he's sweet and caring. Something changed at 3 yo and tantrums were crazy. Today he is on ADHD meds but still has impulse and anger issues. He physically attacks his little sister when he is mad and we have tried literally everything. Any suggestions?  He's in therapy, we are changing his meds and we have a plan we developed w him for when he explodes. He can't stop himself though and the plan is useless. He's getting bigger and stronger and I worry my girls are in danger and learning horrible things about relationships. I'm divorced and remarried and dad is in total denial about the problems. Has anyone ever worked with a PCIT?  Carmelinda Mann Brewer-has anyone heard of her?  I'm desperate. 

    I had that child.... it's exhausting... I am so sorry you're experiencing it!  And is so difficult on siblings.  Here is what we didn't know then (our son is now 27 and a very nice, calm, happy person!):  our son was tongue tied.  Several things happen - usually mouth breathing, snoring, and/or grinding (day or night) - all of which lead to poor oxygenation/poor sleep.  It's not "sleep disordered breathing" it's "breathing disordered sleep".  Also, because the tongue is not in the palate, rough explanation - is not able to "stroke" the spot in the palate under the pituitary - the body does not receive all the correct messages it should.  Lastly - food sensitivities.  So few providers know any of this...Dr. Mielke in Pleasanton will do nutritional testing - or any other functional medicine physician.  The tongue tie diagnosis is more difficult - but if he was not able to nurse, or he was primarily bottle fed and has a narrower palate/airway (in addition to the tongue tie - bc trust me, they're all tied these days... just depends where on the challenges spectrum they end up...), his body is not working as it should.  NO GUILT!  Who knew any of this....but knowing now allows you to have it fixed and life can change for the better.  My son was 16 and so much growth had already happened that it's not really reparable sadly.  But your little guy is still so young.  You might have a consult w Virginia Downing.  Good luck!  

    Dear concerned mom - I've been there with a single ADHD child and also unsuccessfully tried a lot of stuff when my kid even got physical with us. Please remember that your son is suffering - otherwise he would not act out like this. We had great luck with Laurie works in a very unorthodox way but after 2 sessions with her, our son's anger had disappeared. I hope you can be open to a method and thinking that might be considered esoteric. Our family is much more peaceful now. Also, the development is in your favor. Around age 8,. they reach the "age of reason" and are able to both control emotions better and to verbalize the underlying conflicts more. Hang in there! 

    I have that boy and he is currently 5- at 3 things "exploded" as you said- he was sweet but then would physically act out suddenly and be defiant, etc.  We recently went to an integrative medicine doctor and checked a bunch of things, including Gluten sensitivity and did 23andme genetic testing to see where his possible blocks were.  We also tested for CAPD (Auditory processing) and SPD (Sensory Processing)- both of which he was positive for.  There was just so much going in his body that he couldn't handle all of it.  So, several supplements later (including Magmind brand magnesium, and Phosphatidylserine), Auditory Integration Training, starting a GF diet, some OT therapy- I am starting to see my sweet boy emerging through.  We still are in the middle of this process, but I am seeing the changes. I also read the book "parenting with love and logic"- which was recommended to me by my daughter's therapist, and implementing some of the recommendations has made a difference to eliminate the power struggles in our house.  I'm still learning, though!  I've also heard some good things about CBT- cognitive behavioral therapy, but we haven't gone there yet.  Good luck!

Archived Q&A and Reviews

Questions (in order by age) Related Pages

My Violent 5yr Old

Nov 2010

My 5yr old son began kindergarten this year and has been having trouble settling in. He has always been aggressive and bit and hit from an early age, although biting has stopped. He has no cognitive issues, he is bright, but not bored in class. But he does have some sensory issues; very easily overstimulated, limited food likes, bothered by some textures, throws himself at me constantly. And now he's hitting and throwing things in kindergarten and being sent home for it (rightly so, I'm NOT complaining about the school/teacher/system/parents/etc.). He choked another student and was sent home for two days, going back today. This is new and appalling. He has been seeing a play therapist for almost two years, he has been seen by our pediatrician, we have tried strict behavior modification, talking it out, 123 Magic, rewards and bribes and tons of other things. My husband and I are at our wits end, we have two other children, under 3, and I am a stay-at-home- mom, so my son is not being neglected or abused. He hasn't been traumatized or experienced major loss, he's just so angry and can't seem to control himself. We had an SST (student study team) meeting at school with the teacher, principal, school psychologist and myself and we have a plan in place, but it doesn't seem like enough. I need to know what to do next, I want him to stop being so angry and violent. I want him to be ok. And I want him to like school, which he does not at the moment. Is there a special school for him? I'm open to suggestions. Unfortunately we have no money at all, but I would still like all suggestions no matter how expensive. Thanks.

Have you taken him to a psychologist? If you have health insurance, that should be covered. Get him professional help. Something is going on with him that needs to be recognized and addressed. anon

First of all, sorry to hear your child is having difficulties. It seems like more and more children are having more and more behavioral differences, that equate to learning problems when they reach school. I don't profess to have the answer, but I did just go to an interesting conference at the Steiner College in Sacramento on the young child. One of the speakers, Nancy Banning, spoke about the importance of the reflexes, and that some children are retaining them far past the point that they should. This can manifest itself in children in many different ways, but all of them clearly impeding their progress. The one quote that came to mind in reading your post was this: ''All of modern life creates Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome''. Imagine that your son is reacting to school specifically, and his life in general, through this filter.

What to do: 1. You may have already done this, but I would go to your pediatrician and ask for a referral for a full neural/psychiatric evaluation. See what the experts might find on a deeper evaluation. 2. Also, I would look into possibly homeschooling for the rest of the year while you work on his sensory issues and have his reflexes looked at as well. 3. Check in with the experts: Ingun Schnieder in San Francisco (a remedial Waldorf expert) may be worth a visit, the same with Dr. Susan Johnson, a behavioral and developmental pediatrician.

It's tough to find the answers, but this is certainly a good forum to start. Please let me know if you have any questions or if I can help any other way 510 741-8336. Good luck. In empathy

We literally went through the EXACT IDENTICAL thing this year (did I mention that it was exact and identical?). Super funny and smart kid. Nothing wrong with him. Never been one of those laid back ''whatever'' kids, but generally a good guy.

Pre-K came at a new school (he is 5, but his birthday is late October) and holy sh*t, the most horrid human being alive came out. He was hitting his teachers, hitting other kids, screaming at his teachers. He was boiling over with anger and frustration at the world. It was awful. Every day I went to pick him up and I wanted to do an army crawl in with combat gear because I did not want to hear what he had done.

My husband and I spent about 18 hours total observing the class. While we did not understand the intensity of his anger, we definitely ended up understanding why he was mad. The class was not very boy-friendly. The method of discipline and how they kept the class in line was very authoritarian and negative. They had to do a lot of ''criss cross applesauce'' where they sat on their butts listening to people talk. I could see why it didn't work (again, who knows why the nuclear button got pushed, but it did).

We finally decided to move him after 2.5 months of misery for everyone and it was honestly the best mommy decision I have ever ever made. We found a Montessori elementary and it made a tremendous difference on day 1. They were very sweet and respectful with the kids. The kids have choices and don't feel powerless. When things happen that are normal boy things (hitting, fart jokes, etc), they don't freak out.

I would venture to guess that your little boy is like mine. He is probably pissed at being ''teached around'' all day. His teachers don't like him and he can feel it. And he feels like you dropped him in a hell-hole for the rest of his life! I would be mad too.

That said... two great books to read on anger. Raising a Thinking Child by Myrna Shure helps them learn to problem solve (we use the workbook with our son and it is very smart and thoughtful. Also, The Explosive Child.

But, again. I bet this is the school being a bad fit and not your son being a bad egg!

5-year-old with rage attacks - bipolar?

April 2005

I have a strong suspicion that my 5-yo son is bipolar. My mother was severely bipolar most of her life and my son's behavior seems to fit almost every description I've read of early onset pediatric bipolar disorder. We are working closely with a psychiatrist who is still in the diagnostic phase, and are also having a complete neuro-psychological evaluation done, so please don't worry about us rushing into a diagnosis or medication.

My question is, how in the hell do parents of bipolar or other rageful children survive on a day-to-day basis. My son's behavior is extremely disruptive and outrageous -- he has two to three ''rage attacks'' per day, which are usually brought on by nothing in particular. During these attacks, he screams, hits, bites, throws heavy objects, spits, froths at the mouth, soils himself, you name it. Our psychiatrist has recommended calling 911 and having him taken to Children's Hospital for a psychiatric evaluation during one of these attacks, but we're hesitant to do so.

Additionally, my son seems to have developed some type of social phobia where he refuses to go places where there may be other boys and girls (adults are fine). Unfortunately, he now dreads going to school (which used to be a refuge of sorts) and has had to be dragged kicking and screaming (literally) to school on several occasions. He refuses to go anywhere else, but is impossible to deal with at home.

Help! The psychiatrist says we can't hospitalize him and my husband and I are at our wits' end. We're suffering emotionally and physically from the constant stress of our son's violent meltdowns. I'd love to hear from other parents who have dealt with similar behavior about support groups, professionals or behavior management techniques that might have helped.

Thanks in advance. Desperate

I am so sorry to hear about your situation. I have an immediate family member with bipolar disorder, who has improved dramatically with spritual healings. This may sound hokey to you (it did to me when I first tried them), but it's helped to heal my sibling with bipolar disorder, me, and the rest of our immediate family in a way that therapy never, ever did. What we learned with this experience is that my sibling was (probably still is -- we're still working on it) carrying ''issues'' for the whole family; various things that all/each of us didn't want to look at. By each of us looking inward, dealing with our own emotions and life disappointments, challenges, etc, we have taken the burden of our ''stuff'' off of her. She is much older than your son, so now she is having to look at her own individual issues more. I can immediately put you in touch with a psychologist here in Berkeley who is an experienced spiritual healer, has a long history of working with children (and parents of children)and has first-hand experience with bipolar disorder (not her own -- a family member's). I sincerely hope to hear from you and wish you and your family support, love, and mercy. Denise

For what it is worth, I would like to give an amateur's opinion. First, I would to commend you on taking time to figure out what is happening with your child before jumping on the meds bandwagon. While that may be what is required, I invite you to consider trying an alternative such as homeopathy, which is an effective holistic healing system with no side effects. Since you are talking about something that is a potentially life-long affliction, I feel it is worth a try, especially since medications have not yet masked his case. My wife is a qualified, and very good homeopath with an excellent medical background from India. Feel free to take a look at her website to understand more about homeopathy and her approach or contact her if you have any questions. Wishing you the best, Scott

Please contact me privately at my e-mail address below and I'll share my experience, which may be helpful. In the meantime, you and your husband need to treat yourselves well (sleep, exercise, fun time alone, etc.). You're training for a marathon and you'll need all the energy, support and good times possible to see you through this. Good luck!

-Very balanced meals made with fresh foods. Lessen/eliminate non-natural sugars and packaged. It's amazing how a child can become a demon just from something like red food coloring in a food.
-Plenty of sleep.
-Consistent routine.
-Lots of love and compassion.
-Serene environment, as much as possible (declutter your house).
-No TV (no TV running in the background while he's awake, either).
-Get him outdoors and active every single day, even if it's raining. Being in nature, away from crowded places, is best, and a good way for him to de-stress and release the dissonance he absorbs from other people.
-Get him plenty of sunshine. 10-20 minutes of that daily sunshine should be without sun lotion.
-The outdoors, you will have to force, since he refuses to go anywhere. It is better than being in the home at all times.

It might seem boring to go to places that are all trees (the more trees the better), hiking trails, and grass, but learn how to have fun outside of the home. Take things you normally do at home with you, and do them outside at these places - meal, playing with cars/trucks, coloring, balls, reading, etc. Allow him a little freedom at these places. If he just wants to walk around or be by himself (and you can still see him), let him. You are lucky to live where there's a glut of hiking trails, regional parks, botanical gardens, etc.

These are all preventive measures to keep him on a more even-keel. My apologies that I cannot offer anything during the attacks, except to get him out for a walk. anon

My friends have a ten-year-old with bipolar disorder. They have had great success with a multi-vitamin diet they found through Their son now takes very small doses of Risperdal and is relatively symptom-free.

So sorry to hear about your son! Whether it's bipolar disorder or something else that is making him act this way, it is a huge strain on your family, and I'm sorry you're having to deal with this. I have a bipolar child and it can be a nightmare. Here are a few suggestions:

To try to have some peace while you go through this diagnositc process, I hope your psychiatrist will prescribe something that might calm your son at least a little. Risperdal can be very effective for rages and can be started prior to deciding if he needs a mood stabilizer or not. This is a powerful medication, if it feels to scary to try until you have more information, somtimes an anti-anxiety med like ativan or buspar can be helpful. The key to having some peace in your family is to get him stabilized on medication, which can be a long process of trial and error. If you really think he is bipolar, do not let them give him an SSRI antidepressant (prozac, luvox, etc.) as these will trigger mania (rage) in a bipolar person. You also might want to have your son evaluated for temporal lobe epilepsy. My understanding is that it doesn't or may not cause visible seizures, but can cause huge behavioral issues. If you can't get a prescription for something, or don't want to until you are clearer on what is going on, you might try giving your son some Omega 3 oil. I think they come in flavored capsules or powders at Whole Foods. This is a supplement they studied at Harvard and found it to be very effective w/bipolar patients. Of course, they were giving megadoses. You can read more about it by reading The Omega 3 Connection or just googling Omega 3, Harvard & bipolar. Whatever is going on, you will want to educate yourself about medications. A good book for that is Straight Talk about Psychiatric Medications for Kids'' by Timothy Wilens, MD.

Another book that is helpful in just managing the behavior is The Explosive Child by Ross W. Greene, Ph.D. A large number of families w/bipolar children, including ours, have been helped tremendously by the suggestions and philsophy in this book. There is a wealth of information at , as well as online support. I am assuming you have already read The Bipolar Child by Papolos & Papolos. If not, you should. The authors do a lot of research in pediatric bipolar and also have websites at and .

Make sure your psychiatrist is familiar with pediatric bipolar disorder. There is a pediatric bipolar clinic at Stanford run by Dr. Kiki Chang.

The hospitalization question is hard, especially with such a young child. You will just have to go w/your gut on this. Again, since hospitaliztion is so stressful, my vote would be for the doc to give you some med to calm things down while you're sorting this out, but only you and your husband can decide what is right for your family.

There used to be a support group for kids w/special needs that met in North Berkeley. The kids had all different kinds of issues from bipolar to epilepsy to tourette's. Behaviors were very similar. I think this still meets. I believe it has been posted w/in the last few months in the announceements newsletter of this network. NAMI (National Association for the Mentally Ill) also runs local support groups for families w/bipolar kids.

Hang in there, it can get better. My son is now stable and has been for quite a while. There are still difficulties, but nothing like what I know you're going through now. Best of luck! Been There

Six year old boy's explosive rage

Jan 2007

My six year old son has been having such severe rage attacks that I am beginning to fear for our safety. He is very bright, very verbal, and normally a well behaved delight in every way. He is also doing very well academically. However, at times (more frequently lately) when he is frustrated or scared or has hurt himself accidentally he becomes completely out of control, like someone possesed.He talks of killing himself (and me) and lashes out physically with full force.Then just as quickly as it came on, it will pass and he will return to himself as if a violent storm has gone through him, and he seems really scared about what happened, asking what's wrong with me mom? He recently lashed out at his teacher (for the firsttime) and was temporarily suspended from school. He has been in therapy at the Ann Martin centeror almost two years but it is not working. I am going to have him tested at Kaiser soon but am not sure what they will be looking for.I had been attributing his pain to his confusion about my separation from his father who has some major ''issues'' (depression, in and out of recovery for alcohol abuse)and is very inconsistent in the role he is playing in my sons life. He is never abusive, and they spend time together every weekend, however he is sometimes too sad or exhausted to be fully engaged and does not contribute to our sons wellbeing in any practical way. I am losing hope and sleep and also fear losing my son, who is ofcourse, getting bigger everyday. I am aware of horror stories and don't need anymore. I am looking for practical suggestions and reasons to maintain any hope for his future. scared single mom

What you described sounds very similar (exactly??)to the experience I had with my 7 year old daughter. Explosive rages, threats, I also started getting scared that someone was going to be hurt.

I took my daughter to talk with a behavioral pediatrician & he thought that she had either an anxiety disorder or possibly was bipolar...He started her on a low dose of risperal & within 3 days she was back to normal. It seemed like a miracle. We had the diagnosis confirmed by a psychiatrist. Along with the risperdal we see a family therapist who helps my daughter (& my husband & I!) learn new methods for handling her frustration. Hopefully we can eventually wean her off medications (you can't stay on risperdal long term).

At first I was upset & distraught over her diagnosis but eventually calmed down. I am thankful it got diagnosed early..the worse part was looking at my beautiful daughter full of anger & not understanding that what was going on was physically beyond her control. She also is happy not to have uncontrollable rages & understands that for now she needs to take medication to help her. Been there

CAUTION: If your sweet wonderful son suddenly begins to hurt himself and have explosive rage, it is a RED FLAG. It is the extreme change of character that is an indication of abuse. Abuse doesn't have to be physical, it can be verbal, emotional and even neglect is abuse. I'm not saying your son has been abused. Only do not close your mind to that posibility of abuse. Talk to him and observe when these out bursts occur. You might be able to determine a pattern.

I would also suspend the visit to his dad and see if that makes a difference. Alcoholics are notorious for being irresponsible. If dad is depressed, your son could be affected by that depression. Sometimes depression externalized is anger.

I think Kaiser does offer a developmental assessment. I would schedule that first. If therapy isn't working stop it. I would seek a psychiatrist at this point just to eliminate the possiblity there is some chemical imbalance like ADHD.

You can request a school psychiatrist or behavorial therapist to perform a school evaluation. Free couseling might even be available.

Good Luck and Best Wishes Mare

Hi, I read your post and wanted to suggest you look into sensory integration therapy. I run the center in SSF and have seen patients like this before. There is a simple assesment you can fill out online and you can also schedule a free auditory and visual field test to help determine if there is a need. Sensory integration problems can manifest themselves in many ways, uncontrollable rage is definately one of them. This would make the problem more a physical one than emotional. To fill out the assesment you can go to Best of luck to you! Bryan

First of all - hang in there - I know how scary it is when a child starts to lash out physically and heap verbal abuse on you, especially a child you love so much. There's also the guilt inherent in wanting to just love your child purely, but feeling afraid and victimized by his rage and that's really hard to live with.

My four year old is usually cheerful, bright, affectionate and outgoing, but he has episodes that are not dissimilar from what you describe. They were at their worst during the ''tantrum years'' (occurring almost daily) and there's been improvement since we started him in speech therapy (he has a receptive language delay that was contributing to his overall frustration and he's also highly sensitive and picks up on stress in the house at the drop of a hat), but he still has explosive outbursts at least once or twice a month and sometimes more frequently when stressed himself or picking up on my or my husband's stress levels.

Here are some books that I've found helpful for gaining strategies to help my son and us, cope:
''The Explosive Child'' by Ross. W. Greene ''Raising Your Spirited Child'' by Mary Sheedy Kurcinka ''The Highly Sensitive Child'' by Elaine Aron
Each of these books is chock full of ideas to try. One of the elements that we found most helpful was the idea of regulating our son's environment and schedule as much as possible and finding the trigger points for his behavior so that we could ''nip it in the bud'' and prevent an outburst before it happened. His language delay was and still is a factor in how successful we are in heading off outbursts, though it is less of one since he started speech therapy.

He's also about to undergo a new evaluation through the school district to address ongoing developmental issues and I'm hoping that we'll gain some additional information that will be helpful. Perhaps an additional evaluation might also be helpful in your son's case? His therapist might also have some additional resources to suggest.

I sincerely hope that you and your son will find the help that you need. Beth

Be sure to have him evaluated and tested by more than one doctor in more than one specialty- get more than just one second opinion before making any long-term treatment decisions. Write down your questions before you go in to an appointment (time is rushed and you may feel flustered), and if you're not good at being assertive when it comes to things like asking questions, try and find someone to go with you who can offer you their support.

Ask the doctors what they specifically plan to ''rule out'' in their testing- it should be a pretty long list of things given what you've described, and it will be a long list if they are doing a thorough evaluation. Don't start worrying about anything on that list before results are in and confirmed, just be sure that you are keeping yourself well-informed.

Before you go in, get as much information from his father as possible about his family's medical history- everything he knows about everyone in his family, not just about things that sound to you, a non-medical person, like they might be relevant.

Do the same for your own family. Both of you can call other family members to see if they know about anything that you don't. There are many things that could be causing your son's problems, and there may be several factors contributing to the picture. Just hang in there and take it one step at a time. I think that you're very wise to request 'no more horror stories', and that you are very wise to seek skilled medical help at this point- 2 years of therapy without any improvement is plenty long enough for that route.

I've had mostly very good experiences with Kaiser in recent years, and I've had some truly superior doctors. But there have been a few occasions when I've left one doctor and sought out another because I either wasn't confident that they were really on the ball, or I couldn't establish a good, communicative, working relationship with them. When I've done that and have kept looking, I've always found someone who I was very happy and satisfied with.

Finally, I'd suggest that you make an appointment for yourself with a psychiatrist and get a skilled opinion as to what might help you at this time- therapy? medication? a support group? I can very highly recommend Dr. Jeanne Leventhal at Kaiser Oakland. I found her through this digest, and she's helped me out of a very serious depression. Anon

Haven't read it yet, but another read passed this title along to me when I submitted a similar question: Rage Free Kids, author -Robert Ullman Sister

I hope that you don't regret asking for advice, as you may get quite a bit and quite a variety. Hopefully, among it all you will find something helpful. My two cents, from experience, is to very carefully regulating his eating to keep his blood sugar at an even level: make sure that he gets frequent small doses of protein, no sugar, and not a great deal of carbs (fruit or white grains). Another suggestion is Omega fatty acids (fish oil) which does come in children's formulas. Best wishes.

We have dealt with explosiveness and rage in our son (now 13 years old) for years. We have tried many things, including seeing many professionals, several of whom recommeded SSRI medication. What worked for us, when we eventually found it, was EM Power Plus, a vitamin mineral supplement from Canada that works well for people with mood disorders and a variety of other issues (on the web at We also give our son omega three fish oil capsules. The EM Power Plus you can open up and pour into applesauce if your child can't swallow capsules. It has been a life saver for our family. Our son is more cheerful and communicative. He has not raged a single time since he stared taking the vitamins, last August. The omega three has helped him with school work. He is a much more diligent student since the Ultimate Omega (Nordic Naturals) he takes. Wish you the best of luck! anon

I didn't see the original post, but I want to recommend a neuropsychological evaluation (we went to Alex Peterson who was fantastic (510 531-0500)-- patient with my explosive but highly creative and intelligent son, great about explaining to us his findings and ideas, and sensitive to our reluctance to start meds). My son was diagnosed with a mood disorder, and I wish we had known earlier. We finally stopped blaming each other and started understanding what goes on inside his head that leads to the explosive temper outbursts. We were both strongly against the idea of medicating him, but here we are after my son has been taking a mood stabilizer for 7 months with HUGE improvement to his happiness, enjoyment of school and home time, and developing skills to accept and adapt to changes, catch himself before he loses it in a frustrating situation, and ALL of our lives are improved. Better off knowing

Six year old's angry uncontrollable outbursts

Sept 2006

My daughter will be six in several weeks but she has gotten a head start on the defiant behavior ''Your child at Six'' describes. I have read the book and feel understood by it. My question is what do I do now? She is angry in the morning about going to school. She is furious when I turn off the pbs morning television shows. She slugs me when I say say she needs to finish playing with her friends and come inside. When she is angry she pushes and shoves me; she tries to block me from moving around the room; she hits me as hard as she can. She was a much more easy going kid 6 months ago. This behavior is dramatically worse than it was 3 months ago and seems to be getting worse by the day. October is always her worst month. This time last year she was crying hysterically when I would leave her at the preschool she had happily attended for the 18 previous months. This October is particularly demanding because she has begun kindergarten. I know we have smoother times ahead but how do I respond in the meantime? I am a single mom so she only has me when she gets into this angry spot. I am beginning to implement an incentive system (stars on a calendar) and the television has been temporarily (at least) removed. Any other thoughts, ideas, sympathy? Bruised mom of slugger sue

I also have a six year old. Mine needs way more sleep, quiet time and small healthy snacks than I thought, or she goes out of control. I give her a her a snack in the car when I pick her up from afterschool care. I read her a story in a dim, quiet place as soon as we get home (no starting on dinner or reading the mail). I put her to bed in time to get 10 hours of sleep. As soon as she starts getting angry, we go read a story or quietly play with stuffed animals. It is a conscience effort to prevent meltdowns -- good luck

So sorry to hear about your duaghter's angry outbursts. I know it must be very difficult to handle especially when you are a single parent. But I think you CAN improve the situation immensly. First of all you need to get her to stop hitting you! Maybe that is the only time she gets your full attention. If so, this attention needs to be redirected. Try to be firm and set a new rule that she is not allowed to hit you. If she hits you, you must have a consequence, like a lost privilege. Be gentle, but firm. Be consistent. She needs to know that hitting you is NOT O.K. Explain to her that she needs to calm down before you can talk to her any further. And when she is calm and ready to talk, you will sit down with her and listen to what she has to say. She obviously has a lot of anger, maybe hurt feelings that she doesn't know how to express. She needs to learn to express her feelings through words. You can help her by showing her that you care about her and that you are ready to listen whenever she needs to talk. She needs to know that you are there for her 100%. When we become such busy parents, it's often hard to slow down enough to know what's really going on. We often don't have a clue as to how our busy, stressful life styles effect our children. What is your life style like? Your daily routine? Do you work longer hours and see less of your daughter when school starts? Does your work schedule get busier in October? When you are with your daughter do you spend quality time? Does she feel overwhelemd with school? Are there other things bothering her? Does she feel like she doesn't get enough attention from you? How do you feel when you come home from work? Stressed-out, exhauasted, irritated, overwhelmed? Calm, relaxed and focused? If you think you are too busy all the time, then you really need to slow down. Set up a time each day for just you and your daughter. Spend quality, focused time together doing fun things like: going for a walk, cooking a meal together, doing a craft, reading and talking. You will be amazed at how much this will improve things. I wish you all the best Anon

6-year-old's out of control tantrums

January 2005

I need advice about my 6 year old daughter's out of control tantrum. Last night I told my daughter to take a bath. When she said she was ''too tired'' (her response for things she doesn't want to do), I said, ok, then go lie down on your bed and get ready for sleep (it was an hour before her normal bedtime). This gradually escalated into a full fledged arguement and tantrum like I have never seen before.

She was enraged. Kicking, throwing, screaming. During this, I am threatening her with things like ''don't throw that or I will take (some toy) out of your room''. At that point she doesn't care what she's threatened husband had to literally hold her down for 20 minutes till she finally was exhausted. She yelled some pretty horrible things...She was beyond trying to logic with...

My daughter is very bright. She can be extremely loving but also very determined and sticks to her guns. I look back at the fight last night and of course analyze what I could have done better. She was tired - and always gets stressed about going back to school after vacation. Are there times when if a kid refuses to do something that you should just back down?

How much can this tantrum style be attributed to environment and how much to my daughter's intense personality? (By environment, I mean parenting styles).

I guess I am trying to figure out if we need professional help, or if an intense tantrum, while not common, is still within a ''normal'' range. My daughter was adopted (at birth), so I worry about how she will deal with that along with all the regular issues that kids face. Any input; would be appreciated.

My first son is 2.5 years now and I have been struggling with issues of control, logic, commands, threats, punishment, rewards in the face of tantrums and other parenting challenges. I've found Marshall Rosenberg's work Non-Violent Communication (NVC) to be very supportive and helpful. It's focus is on communication that creates a connection and provides empathy and love. It creates room for play, cooperation and creativity. It's about expressing feelings, needs and making requests. It creates partnership and honors both my needs and my sons needs. He's beginning to understand that he wants to choose and be part of the creative process of how we live together as family. I now welcome his playfulness, his enthusiam for life and his creative spirit. It's much more rewarding for me than trying to control him. I'm having way more fun, play and ease with parenting than I did before NVC. ryl

I don't have a six year old (yet) but my three year old had the same type of tantrum you just described (she has a similar personality to your child too). It came out of the blue at a point when she was very tired. I have never seen anything like it before or after - 30 minutes of yelling and arching her back, screaming about irrational things. She could not be calmed down. It really scared both my husband and I, but we decided that she was probably overtired. I don't know what else set her off. It hasn't happened since and isn't something that I am ultimately concerned about, unless it were to become a regular thing. Another tired mom

My daughter is a Tauraus born in the year of the ox. Maybe I shouldn't quote astrology here, but what I was trying to say is that she is strong willed. She never had a cute little baby cry, she'd scream the house down as an infant. She had her share of 20 minute, then 10 minute tantrums as a toddler - and she never wanted to be held/touched during them. Then came the whiny stage - surprisingly not more pleasant than a tantrum. While these are all necessary developmental stages (hey - don't we all know some adults who still don't have their emotions in check?), there are ways to respond to them. If it is about health or safety, I'll stand my ground and will accept any tantrum gladly. I will tell her if something is non-negotiable based on my values. With a bath - I don't know. She doesn't really need one daily, but she likes the routine. If she doesn't want but needs one, my husband only needs to sniff her and tell her that she smells, and she will head towards the tub on her own (use the daddy's girl connection). Hairwashing and blow drying have been past issues. Hairwashing is done on two set days per week. Upon reluctance, I told her if she can't handle it only twice a week, then we need to do it daily, so it becomes a fixed chore. That won instant and repeated cooperation. Blow drying hair is the price of the priviledge of maintaining and caring for long hair, which she wants. Tantrums over that? We should cut it then. Your choice. We try to consistently convey that she is entitled to her feelings but expressing them tantrum-style is not acceptable and will result in a consequence each time. However, we tell her she is free to complain to anyone she knows that we are unfair because we want her hair washed (she hasn't followed through on the offer)- but the hair will get washed by the time the timer goes off or there will be a consequence. It did get across over time. Issues of the past. At 7, your child will probably just mumble ''no fair'' and retreat to her bedroom for a while to cool down. While at 6, she didn't understand giving each other space - she was right in our face at the worst times - this has gotten much better. I guess, we all have to go through these stages in more or less intensity. Just be consistent in your values and actions, explain your reasons when appropriate, tell her what goes ''hand in hand,'' and make clear what is negotiable and what not as it occurs. It does work when both parents share or at least agree on the same values. Kids can also learn the difference. When mom is around, slippers stay on your feet. When the child is alone with dad, he could care less - runs around barefoot himself. While there is no confusion, of course this needs to be tested by the kid when both parents are around. Slippers or not - let's see who wins - mom or dad? But don't we all have grey areas? Conflict resolution is part of growing up. Got to embrace the whole learning experience! Anonymous

There seems to be a group of kids like ours out there. You are not alone. I have two girls and the difference in their personalities were apparent at birth. My first girl is like yours: intense, persistent, easily angered, tantrums over small things, etc. My second is no saint but she is more adaptable, can handle stress a little easier, doesn't take herself so seriously so humor goes a lot farther with her in difficult situations. These differences are not to be underestimated. Children like ours need to be managed differently. I have gotten alot better at reading signals before things get out of hand. Have a plan, routine, calming music, and STAY OUT of the tantrum. I do what you did during her tantrum, but now when she gets really angry, loud, fitful, I say alot less, breathe more and wait until she gets to the other side within boundaries (i.e., no one gets hurt). I probably catered way to much to her in the early years just to keep the intensity down, I am intense myself, and was clueless on how to deal with her for awhile.

Have you read ''The highly sensitive child''? You just gotta deal with them a little differently, but it doesn't sound likes it out of the norm. You may need support, so I suggest you go to therapy before your child then decide if she needs to go. Been There

I have a 10-year-old who still has occasional tantrums. She also has a very intense temperament. I certainly don't always handle her perfectly, but I do have some suggestions for you. Don't bother with threats. She is too upset to hear you, she is basically hysterical & beyond caring about things like losing a toy. Sometimes you should back down, especially if it's something minor like taking a bath, and especially if you have reason to think she is already stressed due to tiredness or the prospect of returning to school.

As for personality vs parenting, I would say this kind of thing is 90% personality (i.e. temperament) & 10% parenting (meaning how the parent responds to the temperament). I do think the occasional tantrum is normal for very intense kids. If she is basically happy, doing well in school, etc. I wouldn't worry about it. So what should you do? Well, once the kid is melting down, no amount of firmness will help. What has worked for me is distraction, anything that will break into the mood. Sometimes rubbing her back and being sympathetic will help her calm down. Sometimes offering a drink of water will help -- I think I read this one in a parenting book -- a kid can't scream and swallow at the same time, so if you can get her to drink some water she'll have to stop screaming, and once she stops she may be able to stay stopped. 'Cause she's stuck & needs help to get unstuck. My daughter can work herself up into a 20 or 30 minute screaming fit over the most minor frustrations (the stuffed animals not arranged exactly right on her bed was the latest one). The hardest thing for me is not to lose my temper too, and sometimes I just have to walk away for a while.

By the way, my kids (14 & 10) are both adopted & haven't so far had any particular difficulty dealing with it. I think for most kids adoption is too abstract to worry about. If they are worriers they worry about more immediate issues -- will their friend sit with them at lunch, who will come to their birthday party, will they play well in their soccer game, will they ever get a puppy, why is their sister such a pest, etc. So I wouldn't assume it will be a problem for her. STSDT (Still There, Still Doing That)

6-year-old son is negative and angry

May 2004

My 6 year old son seems to view the world from the ''half empty'' rather than the ''half full'' perspective. He tends to focus on the negative aspects of a situation and doesn't acknowledge or appreciate the good things that happened (e.g. spent the day at a birthday party having a great time and was extremely upset on the way home because his 3 year old sister received a multi-colored pen as a party favor and his was a single color). All of his negative emotions manifest as anger and he usually directs it at me. He doesn't seem to be able to express sadness, disappointment, frustration, or fear in any other way than being angry.

I am at a loss as to how to help him deal with his feelings and especially to redirect the energy he expends in anger. I have tried all kinds of different techniques, but nothing seems to help. I get very frustrated when I do nice things for him, things he wants, and his response is to complain about the thing he didn't get. I am beginning to think I should take him to a counselor familiar with anger management, but I'm not sure if I'm premature or overreacting.
Sick of hearing ''I'm mad at you''

I went to a seminar recently that a friend told me about. It is called Love and Logic. They teach parents different techniques in dealing with all types of situations. It is very interesting and the seminar is hilarious. Go to the website The books are great too. The next seminar in CA is in Oakland in December. The date is far away but I recommend going it is completely worth it. Jennifer

You may wish to consider you and your son working with someone together. My kids' godmother is someone who could really assist you in looking at the ways you relate to one another and support you in bringing out something different from your son. She is a tutor and has worked with kids with behavioral issues as well as with adults, mom's and babies, and couples. I'm sure she'd be happy to talk with you and let you know if and how she might work with you and your son. Contact Susan Schreier, 482-2276. Beth

I have a son who was similarly ''angry at the world'' and he is much better now, after we worked on the physical aspects of his unhappiness. He's now six, and after many parenting classes, realizing we hadn't found the answer yet, we finally did cranio sacral treatments (just 2) last year and the difference is profound. You need to look into his history, and figure out when the behavior started. Ours began very, very young, when he was extra needy, as a newborn. We had also tried checking his diet, for things that might be upsetting his system (dairy, sugar, wheat for starters), and even had a blood test for heavy metals to rule that out. I'm happy to pass along referrals if you want to email me. What the parenting classes were right about was, ''someone who's misbehaving doesn't feel good, so you need to address what's bothering them, rather than just the behavior.'' Good luck. CK

You could have been describing my daughter! She is now ten and has been angry (seldom crys or expresses fear) since about age 5 - the arrival of her baby brother. We have tried counseling sessions for us parents on how to deal with her more sucessfully, and counseling for her and now for all for of us. It has all been helpful but she remains who she is. Some things I have learned in the process are -

1. Much of this is disposition and my job is to help her learn to deal with this disposition in a sympathetic way but also not to cave to it.

2. She does not respond well to being cajoled out of her moods but can in fact get herself out of these moods if she is left alone. I now do less - try to get her to her bedroom sooner and have her stay alone until she is ready to interact nicely with the family. Sometimes this takes 10 minutes and sometimes most of the day. But she likes being alone and is far better at handling her own moods than we are. Of course this was more difficult at 6.

3. When I suspect that the anger is really fear I try to talk to her about why she might be fearful (she says - ''I hate swimming and I'm not going!!'' I do not take the bait and discuss whether she ''has'' to go to the new swimming lessons she had said she wanted and are already paid for and instead calmly say - ''You must be pretty anxious about starting a new swimming class. It's usually hard for you to start new things but you usually come to love them. What do you think starting swimming will be like? Is there something that would make it easier?'' Miracuously this sometimes works and she can talk about what is bothering her and tell me some things that will help. She started doing this more after a few sessions of therapy.

4. In general, the calmer I stay and the more I ignore the ''I won't do this'' and ''that isn't fair'' the better things go. Sometimes I feel I ignore too much but . . .

In response to the meltdown about the pencil I would probably calmly say ''I'm sorry you're so upset about that'' and try to ignore repeated complaints. If they went on I'd sent him off to be alone until he felt better. Or I might try to explore if the party was stressful and talk about how difficult it can be to be in social situations and how maybe next time we should stay for a shorter period of time.

The reality is that many kids (and adults) have these issues. You're not alone. But it sure makes being a parent less satifying. I hope this was helpful and look forward to hearing what others have to say. Anon

It sounds like you've been trying just about all the parenting tricks in dealing with your son's anger. I would like to suggest the possibility of jin-shin-jyutsu (a Japanese form of body- work) for your child. I have taken my own children for jin shin and it has been very helpful with a variety of emotional issues, as well as physical problems. Jin shin balances the body's energy, so if there's something out of balance causing your child to be angry, that just might do it. I have used Leah Statman for jin shin and have been very happy with her work. She's really great with kids, and she has a sliding fee scale. Please feel free to email me if you have any questions about jin shin and how it has helped my children. sara

I am often frustrated by my kids' reactions as you describe-- focusing on what they didn't get, rather than all that I just did do/get for them. My thinking is that as humans, we are biologiclaly programmed to focus on problems rather than on things that are fine. So (except when I'm losing my temper too) I don't see the kids negativity as a ''problem'' per se, more as a teachable moment, as to how they are overlooking a lot of what has happened. I try to remind them of their blessings, and mention that I feel discouraged when they overlook all I have just done. I also notice that I feel more upset by the negative attitude when I have over-stretched to do the nice thing for them. So I try to use the opportunity to remind myself to do what I think is appropriate as a parent, not what I think will buy good-behavior points with my kids. And I coach them before and after on what they are receiving and what response I am expecting. And I am wait,wait,waiting for that 7th birthday, when Ames and Ilg say it gets a bit easier. LOL. Meg

I have heard from many people including my own mother that 6 years old is often a very difficult age - not sure why or what the developmental experts say and I'm not sure I care. what I do know is they grow out of it. In the meantime, my feeling is instead of trying to redirect or otherwise avoid his anger, you might want to ackowledge it, name his feelings like ''I know it can be really frustrating when you don't get what you want'' or ''it's ok to be jealous of your sister, I'm sure sometimes she's jealous of you too'' I think this helps people learn to think about and articulate their feelings later (a rare but useful skill) also teach him how to express his anger and vent his rage by punching pillows, running or doing some other exhausting activity. its easier to deal with for him if there's less pent up energy to go with it ilona

I think there are several approaches you can take.

1. Work on the positive. Take family time each day, at dinner or bedtime, to be thankful. Each person in the family should share a moment that happened that day that they are thankful for. For instance, ''My boss complimented my work today. (give more detail here) I am thankful that I have a great boss and a good paycheck.''

2. There are many many emotions. Get a chart or find a list on the internet. Take time each day to talk about how you feel and how you deal with your emotions. For instance, ''I felt happy when (someone said something, so I gave (that someone) a hug.'' ''I felt disappointed in myself when I broke the glass, so I went for a walk and then I felt better.'' Having a vocabulary can sometimes help the personality develop.

3. Don't make your son feel bad for his feelings. Everyone should be allowed to have ALL their feelings: angry, sad, frustrated. But it is the behaviors you should try to control. Give him time out for hitting, yelling, criticizing. Help him find a way to express his anger that is acceptable to you.

4. Tell him everyday that you love him no matter what. Try to start the day on a positive note. If you expect something to happen that will make him angry, talk to him about it and how he can react. sunsolsal

Angry 6-year-old daughter

Sept 2002

I have a wonderful daughter, age six, who is the oldest child of three. She has a sweet and loving side, but also an angry and negative side. She is often angry at her friends (speaks very angrily and hostile to them) if things do not go her way or if she feels left out. She also has an extremely hard time with transitions (coming in for dinner, for example). She yells and screams at me and her dad (we do not yell at her). It is worse if she is tired, I have noticed. She is a sensitive child, which I know has a positive and negative side. How do we help her deal more appropriately with her emotions? I am so tired of feeling sad and worrying about her and how she will be when she is older. Will she grow out of this? How do I reward her good behavior and what do I do about the angry/negative behavior? Tired in Berkeley

I was taken how similar our children are, although mine is a bit older. The book I have been reading that seems to help understand with compassion this behavior is THE EXPLOSIVE CHILD by Ross W. Greene. I highly recommend it as it outlines all the options including the right school. A parent

You might want to look at a book I found very, very helpful (although my son has different issues). It is called ''The Challenging Child'' by Stanley Greenspan. He is a child psychiatrist at Georgetown Univ. medical school. The book is divided into a few different sections, specific to the specific challenge your child has (including angry kids). I took the advice to help my highly sensitive child deal with life a little better and it has really helped. I hope it can help you too. Good Luck!

I hesitate to respond because I don't know that I have any really concrete advice to give, but I have been thinking about this post nearly nonstop since I read it yesterday. Why so? Because the sweet but often angry little girl you described could have been me 30 years ago.

I think this is a common aspect of being what we call a ''sensitve child.'' My gut also tells me (based on my own experience) that she is feeling a lack of control, especially since she has two younger siblings. I would suggest that anything you can do to make her feel like she has a little more control over her life would be helpful to her. Even something seemingly silly can make a difference - after my brother was born, my parents bought me a t-shirt with iron-on letters that said ''I'm the boss.'' My parents would joke in later years about that shirt and how proudly I wore it. When people on the street would ask who I was the boss of, I would say with conviction, ''the cat.''

Also, I would not hesitate to find someone outside the family for her to talk to (such as a psychiatrist). Not to suggest that there is anything wrong with her - but, as I might explain it to her, 'sometimes when you feel angry it helps to talk to someone... and sometimes it's easier to talk to someone outside your family and friends, someone who will just listen.'

And probably most importantly, I would suggest that you respond by comforting her more than reprimanding her. (Although I know there have to be reprimands as well). I would venture to guess that when she gets angry, she is aware that she should not be so upset and that she's acting in an unacceptable way, but that she feels like she can't stop herself from being so angry. I would try literally taking her in your lap (assuming she's not violent!), wrapping your arms around her, and just hugging her and talking quietly, telling her you love her and it will be ok in a minute. Even now as an adult, nothing makes me calm down (and be able to put things in proper perspective) more quickly than a little love. I think that, over time, the amount of time you'll sit there with your daughter will shorten, and soon you'll be able to talk about the anger more (and what to do when it arises - for example, walk away from the situation for a minute) and then , after that, she'll be able to take those steps by herself without having to retreat to you.

Best of luck, One sensitive and angry kid who turned out OK after all

You might want to check out the book Positive Discipline by Jane Nelson, Ed.D. This book explains the root causes of many different kinds of behavior and helps parents use speicfic communication skills to help their children develop positive behaviors and skills. I wish I had read this book when my kid was a toddler. The techniques really, really work. a parent who has been there

Here are my thoughts, which may or may not apply to your situation. My son is a sensitive child, and I started to notice a correlation between his angry outbursts and how his day was. At day camps and at school, he was in settings that were hard on his psyche, and he had a lot to discharge at the end of the day. It took a while to see this pattern.

He was not able to communicate these problems verbally. He is not the type to share the details of his days. But periodically he would say something that would alert me that his days included stressful events, more than he could cope with.

We have since changed his school and daycare situation to a much more soothing environment, and it is amazing the difference in his moods. He still gets upset at times from overtiredness, but his underlying mood is incredibly different--he is actually happy! It is wonderful.

I started re-reading How to Talk to Your Kids will Listen and Listen so your Kids will Talk, in an attempt to get to understand him a bit better.

Good Luck with your child. Jennifer

Temper tantrums in almost-6-yr-old

July 2002

My five year old daughter (she will turn six in two months) has been having frequent temper tantrums. This behavior is not typical for her but seems to have become more commonplace in the last 4 months. She has always been a strong-willed and determined person who challenges limits, but it seems that now when things are not going how she wants(i.e. I am not doing what she is requesting/demanding or what she wants is not possible) she gets angry and starts crying and yelling. Once she starts she can't seem to stop and sometimes it can go on for an hour or even two! I have tried different interventions but I don't feel like I am being able to really get her to understand that this behavior is unproductive and disruptive. She does seem to get more set off when she is hungry or tired but she won't eat to raise her blood sugar or learn from her experiences that her mood is affected how she feels physically. I was wondering if other people have experienced this age as more volatile than others or have advice for things they have done to get a kid to learn different ways of coping with disappointment. I am a single mom so don't have anyone to spell me which makes it even harder. Exasperated

I could have written your email about tantrums -- my daughter who just turned 6 has always been intense, but she's also been having these long tantrums or fusses, often about things that seem trivial. Hunger and tiredness does make a difference, but she also refuses to eat when she gets into this place. The other things it seems related to is jealously of my attention to other people; and frustration with tasks she sets herself. One person I talked to pointed out that it's scary to transition from kindergarten to first grade. I thought it might also be my daughter's working out of some family stresses we've gone through in the last couple of years. I don't have a solution, but your email makes me think it's some thing to do with the age, at least for kids who weren't mellow in the first place. Good luck in finding your own balance. anon

My now 7 year old still occasionally goes through something similar to what you describe, though lasting 'only' about 20-30 minutes. In our case it does seem to be related to blood sugar levels, and state of exhaustion. I try to preemptively feed her often (like every 2 hours in the afternoon/evening), and include some protein (cheese or turkey). Getting adequate rest is still another issue around here, and temperament. Since intervening during a blow-up is ineffective, talking with her when both she and I are in a good mood about ways to cope has been helpful, and sometimes I'll just tell her how frustrating and upsetting, but okay, it is for all of us to express our anger. I myself am working on trying to calmly leave the room instead of intervening so much during these moments... Good luck. Tired Anonymous Mom

A few years ago, I wrote a very similar post to yours asking for advice on dealing with my then 6-year old's temper tantrums. So, I sympathize with you completely; tantrums present a tough parenting challenge. My daughter had tantrums fairly regularly beginning when she was 2 or 3 years old. It was like she was out of synch--her goals and her capabilities didn't match very well. Lots of frustration resulted, and she would just lose it. Certain circumstances were much more likely to lead to tantrums such as being hungry or tired or trying something very difficult for her. Or being asked to defer to another family member's needs. Also being in big, noisy, brightly-lit stores was almost always a problem. Avoiding or stopping those kinds of circumstances helped us quite a bit. And seeking expert advice helped too. What helped the most was just to stop whatever she/we were doing when she was starting to lose it and to cuddle together and calm down. Physical closeness seemed to diffuse her frustration and mine too. It is hard to do when you are really engaged in some activity or have a goal in mind, but it was the only thing that really worked for us. Around age 7 to 7-1/2 the tantrums were a thing of the past, though the associated spiritedness remains. My girl is a great student and a high achiever--and still somewhat self-absorbed. I hope you can take some comfort in knowing that you are not alone and there's no need to feel like a failed parent when your elementary school aged child has tantrums. Don't forget that you can give yourself a 'time out' when you are exhausted and need one. I still do that! anon

6-year-old is hitting, pinching, kicking, and calling us names

January 2005

I have checked the website and all I found regarding hitting and name-calling refers to much younger children than ours. Our soon to be 6.5-year-old daughter has recently been hitting, pinching, kicking, and calling us names when she is mad. While we recognize that she is nearly always very tired when she does this, we still don't know what to do to get her to stop. ''Use your words'' doesn't work. Telling her it's completely unacceptable behavior doesn't work. We take away privileges, but it doesn't resolve the problem long-term. How can we help our daughter learn how to handle her anger and channel it effectively? We always tell her we love her no matter what, and we always tell her it's OK to be angry. We do tell her, of course, that it's never OK to hit, pinch, kick, and call names. Thanks for any advice you can provide. At my wit's end!

Well, I have no real answers for you, but I can assure you that you are not alone! We never had any ''terrible twos'' with my oldest daughter, now 6, but boy can she throw a fit now complete with ''I hate you''s ''Nobody loves me'', kicking, screaming, hitting. We've tried all the things you did with no success. The only thing that has helped somewhat in the throes of it is saying ''DO you need a hug? Come here, Mama will hug you''. Then (if she'll let me), while hugging I'll say ''I know how angry you are, I would be too if I really wanted XYZ I couldn't have, but I can't let you hit your mom''. For longer term inspiration, I like to read parenting books like ''Raising you spirted child'', ''Playful parenting,'' ''How to talk so your kids will listen''. They make me feel more optimist! ic and give me new ideas and hope to carry on! Good luck!
mom to a raging 6 year old girl

Sounds like your daughter may be introverted and/or sensitive -- and may have difficulty with people ''getting in her space'' when she's tired. I've just been reading ''Raising your spirited child'' and the author has lots of good advice about this -- even if your child is not what you'd call ''spirited'' in general. General suggestions include: pointing out to your daughter that she's feeling tired, doesn't want people in her space, needs time to herself, whatever you think is the best description of her feelings, backing off and giving her the space she needs to calm down (even though you want to deal with the hitting issue right then, it might not work). This doesn't mean you'll let it go, just that you'll deal with it when it's actually possible to get her to process it. t! alking to her when she's calm and rested, and explaining then what she is allowed to do and say when she feels like that -- and making sure she knows you will respect her request for space (or whatever). Karen

If you are interested in family therapy, I recommend Dr. Marlene Winell, 510-649 -1256. She is great with kids, and helped me very quickly with my child when she had problems with angry outbursts. There are effective ways to set and enforce limits and still be a loving parent. Good luck. Helen

123 Magic by Thomas Phelan is a simple counting system designed to stop unwanted behaviors in kids. He developed it for kids with ADHD so it works even better with kids who do not! I highly recommend it. best wishes

Defiant and uncooperative 7-year-old

March 2008

On and off since she was 3, I have received feedback from my daughter's teachers that she is uncooperative and even defiant, will insist on doing things in her own way rather following directions. When she was a preschooler, I mostly chalked it up to ''normal'' developmentally-appropriate behavior. She has always been keenly aware of her environment, very observant, and has had since infancy a tendency toward reacting to stimuli in a big, often exaggerated manner. This goes, too, for any so- perceived insult or injury. She has a chronic genetic medical condition for which she must undergo frequent diagnostic procedures and examinations, to which her response is often uncomfortably ''over the top,'' eliciting anything from disapproving clucks to eye rolling to speeches on more effective boundary setting and accusations of poor parenting, whether implicit or explicit, from care providers. She takes a laundry list of medications to treat her medical condition. Her father and I separated when she was an infant; I am a chronic depressive ''in recovery''; her father is an alcoholic unwilling to recover, with whom she spends most weekends. I get little emotional input from him: his ability to perceive, analyze, and act upon matters psychological seems stunted. Our daughter is actually quite precocious, reads well beyond her class level, and exhibits many signs of above-average intelligence. Her current teacher has recently approached me to say that her in-class outbursts, lack of cooperation and outright antagonistic attitude have reached ''critical mass'' and that we need to take action. With all I do to maintain her physical health, the added stress of behavioral issues to be handled seems overwhelming! I wonder if she has ADHD or Oppositional Defiance Disorder, and would like a recommendation for someone to do a full psychiatric assessment, taking into account all the physiological and environmental factors in play. I am very reluctant to put her on yet another medication, so I'd prefer someone who is not a puppet of the Big Pharma! I look forward to your input... Mom with Plate Piled High

Hi, my daughter sounds like yours in some ways (and not in some other ways). She is above-average intelligence, highly sensitive to social actions (perceived often as being not- liked), highly sensitive to her physical environment (she is diagnosed ''tactile defensive'' in the sensory integration dysfunction group), and has tantrums regularly at home - big ones. She is also 7.

We tried being evaluated and treated by an occupational therapist (trouble in the ''occupations'' of daily life - not work therapy). We also looked at food or other allergies (negative). We spoke to a psychologist who knows child anxiety and have since seen a child psychiatrist. An eval from a psychologist or a developmental pediatrician would be a great start. If they feel it necessary, they can refer ''up'' to a psychiatrist.

The next hurdle would be where to go and how you can pay. Depending on your health insurance, or if you have a mental health benefit, you can look at a few different options. We obtained a referral to Oakland Children's Developmental and Behavioral unit - very highly recommended for things like ADHD vs ODD vs SID vs others. It took FOREVER to get the referral accepted (like 10 month). Then we had to get authorization from our health insurance. That took at least a month. With the time inbetween (my fault) and then the time it took to schedule an appt after receiving authorization, we have a total wait time of 14 months!!! However, the eval will be covered as well as the follow-up appt by our regular medical insurance. We opted to see the psych before this appt bcs things were feeling dire. And we sought out an OT outside of this group for the same reasons before. Things went a little out of order, but they seem to be coming together.

So, perhaps the first stop would be your pediatrician for a referral if you want to be seen by a develop/behavioral specialist or a psychologist. Or, you can seek out your own psychologist or develpmental ped. I would recommend trying to get to Oak Children's groups bcs I've heard from EVERYONE we've talked to that they are the best - and they will certainly be familiar with kids on other meds and will have access to specialists in those areas too.

Good luck!!! parent of sensitive kid

Sounds like you are dealing with a lot. I can imagine it is really draining sometimes. It also sounds like SHE is dealing with a lot. Were I in your situation, I would check out therapy before going into meds. This area is chock full of excellent children's therapists who specialize in a whole smorgasbord of situations. I had similar concerns about my oldest child, who is also very intelligent and sensitive and ''over-the-top'' (but doesn't have medical conditions). He has been in therapy for almost 2 years and the change has been beautiful. anon

Honestly that does not sound like ADD or ADHD at all. A child with ADD will have trouble organising their stuff when you ask them to clean their room. If you leave them alone to do it you will find everything separated into piles but not put away. A child with ADHD will be very high energy and be prone to breaking things in your home. Keep in mind being the child of an alcoholic and a chronically depressed person is much harder than you probably realise. She is taking her cues from both of you, and the behaviour and emotions of depressed people and alcoholics appears 'excessive' to other adults. Even without those factors it is very hard for young children when their parents are no longer together. When you add in the fact that she also has to deal with a physical condition that makes her different, she probably feels horribly conspicuous and different from other children. On an aside even as an adult I hate going to hospitals and being poked and prodded, and that the medical staff are acting disapproving about your daughter's behaviour seems really inconsiderate. My advice would be to find a therapist for her to talk to so that you can really find out what is bothering her. I have a gut feeling that if you can find a way to help her feel more in control and happy that she will behave better. My grandfather was an alcholic and my grandmother was depressed and it was very hard for my dad and his sisters. They all had 'excessive' behaviour as children and adults. My father was only able to stop once he found a good therapist in his forties, but his sisters still act inappropriately. Sadly as an adult other adults are pretty unanimously unwilling to put up with that kind of behaviour. anonymous

Our child 8, has many similar behavioral issues (no med). Lifestyle circumstances different: though father and I divorced 5 yrs. Same with school/teachers. Struggled with behavior since d.of sep, and before. Spent 3 yrs trying to arrange psych-eval/neuro-psych diagnostic. Very familiar with docs in area/psychologists/neuropsychologists. Got excellent advice on selecting a practitioner. Spent 50 hrs in Jan., interviewing/researching. Beginning work with Terry Doyle, Oakland. Practices with 2 assistants, and is able to intake clients faster as a result. Appears to be very thoughtful/ thorough/non-reactive. Spends 2X as long with tests/writing report than all others interviewed. Painstakingly answered all calls and emails prior to our commitment (totaling more than 4 hrs). Spent an addl 1.5hr meeting in her office, 1 of 15 willing to respect/encourage parents to take time/precautions necessary to choose right person to do eval. Knows info is important- not to mention subjecting your child to this (our child terrified/resistant to doctors/specialists). Available/willing to answer all questions, including emailed list of tests free. Others would speak for 20 mins, not return calls, request we pay them for addl info/interview. This tells me she will be as thoughtful/thorough during testing, and following (important!). Trained MD with addl Phd in psych. Maintains a full psych. practice. Aside from above, chose her b/c she seemed to offer qualifications that would see our child from both perspectives so as not to focus solely on a bio-chem, nor psych. Testing time w/children is over the course of 4-5 visits and totals approx. 13 hrs. 15 hrs to write report/review/provide recommendations with you. 2 hrs meeting with parents prior to get hist. 30 hrs total; $5300. Thought it better to do process once,spend 2X as much time/$$, and try and get it right, than to come away with mis-diagnosis, or no new info/tools. Encourages process as an ongoing relationship. Just beginning-can't give final consensus of work. Email for other refs,(got a list of top 6), helpful criteria for interviewing, and conclusion of our exp. Our's will begin next wk, 6 wks to set up. Adamantly against meds/ADD diagnoses, etc., unless very thoughtfully considered, and no other treatment option. We've explored many holistic options: therapeutic schools, occupational therapy, sand tray, homeopathy, counseling, diet/cod liver oil, IEP, and other assessments. maimiti

If you have insurance you might find a good neuropsychologist to do thorough testing. In Berkeley, Caroline (Kai) Johnson, PhD is excellent. If in an Hmo, call to find who they will allow you to see. A neuropsychologist can do testing that is often much more discriminating and helpful than just your pediatrician doing an exam. Even if your child has ADHD for example, you still will want to find out about her particular strengths and weaknesses within that category which the test data will show. The psychologist can help you translate the results into what you need to do from there. Good luck. terry

Your case is going to be a complicated one, and you will need a team approach to piece together what is going on with her and create a plan to help her.

The various team members could be: 1) developmental behavioral pediatrician to lead the team; 2) pediatric psychiatrist to do the psychiatric/emotional evaluaton, 3) pediatric neuropsychologist to do a full assessment of her cognitive profile. The team should then create a plan TOGETHER that integrates and prioritizes her treatment. I am surprised the school psychologist has not been brought in to do testing. At this point, I would pass on this and go directly to a private neuropsych assessment.

So...where to start. Some suggestions:

1) Ann Martin Children's Center, 3664 Grand, Oakland 655-7880,

2) The Development and Behavioral Pediatrics center (a dept. of Childrens Hospital) at 5220 Claremont, Oakland, 428-3351, r_overview.asp or

3) start with the neuropsych evaluation, Dr. Carina Grandison, 286 Santa Clara, Oakland, 763-9795. She can give you expert, compassionate advice and also do the full assessment.

I am wondering where your pediatrician is in all this and why s/he has not been guiding you in this. Perhaps you need a new pediatrician.

Also, a last piece of advice. Your daughter will probably have a combination of medical, cognitive and behavioral factors which are being demonstrated. Please remember:

1. Even if the majority of her problem is behavioral, it is not willful or under her control. She is behaving in the only way she knows in order to survive. She can't just ''stop doing'' something and making her feel bad will only make it worse. The moral judgements by teachers and others send her the message that something is wrong with her, as if it were her personal choice to behave that way. Her anxiety level is very high; when your anxiety level is high you don't have mental room left over to attend to what is going on (eg learning); so it looks like ADHD but in reality the anxiety can cause the inattention.

2. Know that she is working very hard to just cope with life. She probably comes home from school exhausted. Do what you can to comfort her, give her rest and relaxation, and plenty of time in a non-stressed environment.

3. Reassure her that you and she together will figure out what is going on, that you will help her, that everything will turn out ok, that you love her, and that she is a special, wonderful person. Tell her that every day! Good luck to you. anon

You might also look into the possibility that your child is gifted and bored to extreme frustration with school. When you choose someone to do testing, you might want to make sure that the person is also an expert on gifted kids as they sometimes have very different behavior patterns that won't be understood by someone unfamiliar with gifted kids. There is a webpage called Hoagie's that you can google and it has lots of reference material for gifted kids and various problems that sometimes go along with this. Some kids have disabilites along with the giftedness, which can be confusing. Anyway, good luck! Laurel

Weepy 7-year-old son

Nov 2002

My 7 year old is very easily provoked into anger, frustration or hurt feelings. Often, I'm sure the issue is tiredness or needing to eat, but sometimes I'm just not sure that this is the issue. The other night, he was so upset that he threatened to run away up the street. I know that all of us have threatened to run away during our childhood, but I am still concerned. Any experience with this/advice for what I might do to address this issue with my son?

I also have a child that can be very sensitive. I recommend the book ''How to Talk so that Kids Will Listen, and Listen so that Kids Will Talk''. My son, now 8, is learning to express himself, and I am learning to stop, listen and let him ''get it out of his system'' without offering solutions or dismissing his concerns. I hadn't even realized that I was doing it until I began working through the book. B

My son is younger than yours, so tears are expected. However, I wanted to write because I was a very weepy child, and still cry easily. My first thought is that your son is lucky to have such access to his emotions. Most people--men and women--are not so lucky. If you can see it that way too, you will be doing something very positive for your son right away. A few other notes on the subject: most people don't think it's lucky to be so open to emotion. Indeed, an emotional child is often called a cry baby or worse. My sister used to tease me because she liked to see how quicky she could get me to cry. As a child is growing up, it can be painful to be open hearted and teased for that openness. It's no doubt harder for boys than for girls, too. Is any of that kind of teasing happening to your son? As a child I used to want to run away every time I cried, too, because I felt too vulnerable, and only safe crying by myself. It's still a problem sometimes--I'll never be a power-broker because strong emotions, sorrow, anger, frustration, fear, will still make me cry. But many people value the openness and empathy I can bring to a relationship. Your son may find the same, too. Someone with more experince working with children might help you find ways to help your son manage his emotions better, which is something he will need to learn. But I must say this: if my parents had helped me accept my strong emotional nature and work with it rather than against it, we would have had an easier time while I was growing up--I would have trusted them more, and more important, I would have trusted myself. Good luck. anon.

Wow, this really resonates with me. My now 8 year old son is easily teary. He has become less so since he has turned 8 but pain( From falling) is a very strong trigger for him. It used to be almost anything would make him cry. I have considered all the bad stuff first like abuse or depression. I even looked at how I unwittingly facilitate his behavior by paying more attention when he cries then when he doesn't. I try not do that. And like you, I know that outside stressors like hunger etc. can be a trigger. Now we are at the point where I have gotten him used to slowing down, breathing and looking inward, with my help, to see what the issues might be. This is sometimes no easy task with 2 other kids. I have to breathe a lot too. It is also still unfortunately hard for boys to cry. Too bad for them, sometimes you just need to. Anway, we are a Waldorf family and in Waldorf thinking there are different personality dominances that are of course not all or none but his may be the one known as melancholy. I once asked my mother -in -law what to do. She said''Love him, it is really all you can do'' anon

Seeking psycho-diagnostic work up for 8.5 year old

February 2008

Re: 13-year-old's daily rages, may be bipolar - boarding school?
This is in response to the above titled thread. I have an 8 1/2 year old child whom I love dearly. However, I have struggled with him since day one, and his father and I divorced when he was 3 years old. In part because of our inability to co-parent, and find a path in our marriage that would keep us all together.

Instead of making things better, it's made things worst- adding only more layers to a problemed situation surrounding our son. He was kicked out of school at age 6, and is now in a new school, experiencing the same difficulties. It's been a struggle trying to identify what exactly the problem is.

We are now in the courts and he even has his own attorney to try and see if things can move forward in a more beneficial way for him. I think as parents we are both befuddled, myself (depressed, worried, exhausted). I've identified with this thread as I fear that this is the direction he will be going in if we don't receive appropriate diagnosis and help- and I can't see myself continuing this way through his teenage years/adulthood. I empathize with the fish oil, sensory integration dysfunction, high intellectual aptitude, IEP, and those who have shared how their children will not see a doctor or therapist. My son is terrified of any kind of medical/psychiatric professional, and will attack me, them, hide, etc. so as to not participate. His father has more success with this, however is difficult to engage as he does not experience this as a problem.

At this point we are seeking a psycho-diagnostic work up. I have spent thousands out of pocket as a single parent and am lookig for advice on how to choose an appropriate person, or whether this is appropriate. I am reading mixed reviews here. I am looking for the best way, and person, who can do a diagnosis of the problem. Ie: allergies, sensory integration, neurological functioning, early childhood trauma, custody recommendations, social, emotional disorders.

I am wondering if those who have shared about their teens can say whether their childrens' behaviors presented earlier in childhood, and how they worked with the myriad of professionals out there to find a solution. I am not interested in having my child cycle through medications that are inappropriate, or subjecting him to various therapists, groups, and treatments at his young age, that are unecessary, or ineffective.

Thanks for your advice.

My adopted 11 year old was having daily rages and impulsivity that were so intense that we were ready to send him off to boarding school. After years of alternative treatment mixed with some medications that were ineffective I found a great child psychiatrist and she prescribed Trileptal. It is an anti-seizure med and it has changed his life in a profound way. The rages and impulsivity are gone and he's so much happier. Now, who he truly is can come forth. He has thanked me for the medication and said ''I feel my brain can think now''. The MD is Dr. Giri at Pathways to Wellness in Martinez - 925.428.4200. We also continue to work with a nutritionist and Christine Ciavarella, homeopathy, at the Hahneman Clinic in El Cerrito. Anonymous

My heart goes out to you. I too have a beloved child who may be bipolar. First, decide whether you want to do a psychodiagnostic workup privately (very expensive) or through the school system. 1) Privately: Through a lot of work, I tracked down outstanding pediatric specialists: behavioral pediatrician Dr. Marianna Eraklis(925-254- 4000); neurologist Dr. Sonia Partap at Stanford; sleep specialist Dr. Michael Cohen, Walnut Creek; & hopefully psychiatrist Dr. Lisa Hardy in San Ramon. In retrospect, I don't recommend this route because it's expensive & time- consuming. They're individuals instead of a cohesive team & keeping them all updated & coordinating their care is a nightmare. 2)School: I recommend this route because a team already works together; they have expertise with troubled kids; & the school has to be involved anyway. I was reluctant to have my kid tagged as ''Special Needs'' but it's actually a big plus because it opens up a range of valuable services, including the right to a diagnostic workup at the school's expense. We're just starting a school educational and psychological workup with our daughter. Either way, the process is stressful & emotionally exhausting. Take heart, though: you have legal rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act, & you have access to a lot of support through the BPN network. N.

8-year-old's tantrums - is it anxiety?

Nov 2006

Has anyone had any experience with their child being diagnosed as ''anxious'' and having their ''anxiety'' result in being constantly irritated & having tantrums/rages?

My 8 year-old daughter has had issues with anger and throwing tantrums (I'm not sure if they are ''tantrums'' or ''rages''). I have started the process of having her assessed & the preliminary diagnosis is that she has some type of ''anxiety'' (I haven't had a chance to have a full discussion with her doctor yet).

I want to educate myself while I wait to speak with her doctor. I would agree with the fact that she is ''anxious''. But, can this cause a child to throw tantrums/rages? I haven't been able to find a connection in any of the articles on the internet about anxiety/generalized anxiety disorder and throwing tantrums/rages.

Also, I would appreciate hearing about how you dealt with it...medication, therapy? I am confident in her doctor, Brad Berman Anxious mom

My eight year old daughter is also very anxious. We've had great success in having her in therapy with Rebecca Schwartz, Ph.D., in Berkeley. Rebecca has met with our daughter once a week for about a year and has met with us about once or twice a month. Our daughter has relaxed considerably. She's no longer so rigid and her fits and rages are largely a thing of the past. Rebecca has helped us make parenting changes (mostly involving more structure) that have improved our homelife considerably. We haven't used medication.

The day that my daughter turned two I realized that she didn't process social situations the same way that her peers did. By the time she was 3+ it was clear that her social anxiety was stunting her growth - she was selectively mute. She is now six and has made a lot of progress, but the anxiety (fear) is still present and really prevents her from experiencing life fully. The anxiety also makes her explosive. I certainly understand it. She gets anxious/scared about something (incredibly minor that others might not notice) but everybody around her remains calm. She gets more and more worked up and finally explodes.

We have major tantrums (daily) that are very difficult to handle. She will also tantrum over perceived injustices - anxious kids are more likely to have lower self-esteem, which makes it difficult for them to just let things bounce off of them. Look at the book 'Freeing Your Child From Anxiety' (Tamar Chansky) for ideas, and a better understanding of anxiety. Also, consider her school environment. If she is experiencing lots of stress (social or academic) at school and managing to hold it in, then she will likely let it out at home. My understanding is that CBT is the best way of handling anxiety disorders. However, you need to be motivated so it really depends upon the child - my child is still too young. Also, try some relaxation/self-esteem tapes - I find them annoying but my daughter listens to them every night and she finds them soothing (if you email me I can find the name for you). Good luck. berkomax

My son has anxiety and his behaviors are a bit different from your daughter's. But Dr. Brad Berman is an excellent doctor. Trust his advice. YOu might want to explore what is causing her anxiety or what sets her off on one of her tantrums. Who gave your daughter the diagnosis of anxiety? Did he/she recommend any kind of treatment? I would not rush in to medication at this time. There are other ways of treating anxiety such as therapy, play therapy, sand tray therapy, etc. You need to first find out what is causing her anxiety. Maybe there are other factors contributing to her tantrums. Good luck anonymous

I would recommend that you ask the doctor for information on how anxiety manifests differently in children than in adults. It is true that depression and anxiety can be different in children, and that irritability & anger are signs to look for.

I was a very anxious child, diagnosed with GAD and depression as an adult. I really wish that there had been more knowledge about childhood anxiety when I was young, and that I had been treated for it ****anxious as a kid****

My friend, Robyn Leigh, who was a therapist, once wrote an article with this phrase in it: Behind the anger lies a deeper fear. When I read your post I thought of this. With best wishes for your child, whatever the anxiety is J

I have suffered from undiagnosed anxiety disorders since I was a child. I also had rages. Only now am I finally understanding the connection between anxiety and anger. When I become anxious I use anger as a shield to stop the anxiety and to distance myself from the situation. It is a behavior in repsonse to the anxiety. This is a revelation to me. I have spent many many years feeling like a bad person or unpleasant to be around. Now I am able to stop myself when I begin to feel angry and look for the underlying anxiety. My therapist said that irritibility and anger are very common behaviors in the type of disorder I have. I am using Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and no medication to deal with my disorder.

I don't know what type of medicine or therapy would work for an 8 year old. As a parent if you can help her understand that the rages are just a behavior and NOT who she is that will help a lot. It is scary to be that young and lose control. I have vivid memories of some of my rages and the feeling that comes is terror at the loss of control.

It is great that she has been diagnosed so early. Anxiety is very treatable. Good luck to you and your family. Almost Better

Absolutely anxiety causes rages! Your child is uncomfortable in certain situations and when that discomfort of feeling trapped and not in control of a situation will certainly end in her feeling furious. I think anxiety is the normal reaction to feeling trapped and not in control with a situation. You could talk to an Occupational Therapist to see if sensory processing issues are behind her negative feelings that lead to anxiety. Occupational therapists and child psycologists can also give your child some coping strategies to deal with situations that make her feel anxious. But if she is already enraged, I have known children who respond very well to a short (3-6 mo) use of Prozac to take the edge off the anxiety enough for the coping strategies to be learned and take effect. Good luck and I think it's great that you are respecting her feelings another mom

I have never dealt with childhood anxiety, and cannot say whether that is your daughter's problem or not. However, I have dealt with severe generalized anxiety disorder as an adult, and Dr. Howard Liebgold (nicknamed ''Dr. Fear''), who teaches a course on dealing with anxiety, phobias, and OCD, at Kaiser in Vallejo, changed my entire life by helping me get rid of about 90 percent of my anxiety. I am bringing this up in the context of your daughter because Dr. Liebgold also has a children's course on dealing with anxiety, and I have heard very good things about it as well. (The method he teaches to adults is very, very simple, and I think that an 8-yo could probably grasp it.)

If you feel that you get an accurate diagnosis that your daughter is having her tantrums because of anxiety, then rather than putting her in therapy, I suggest you try Dr. Liebgold's course first. I really cannot recommend him highly enough. He is a terrific teacher and a great person, and very accessible, if you have questions before enrolling in the course. And you do not have to be a Kaiser member to take his relatively inexpensive course. I see that others on BPN have sung his praises before; see this post: Ann

I want to second the recommendation for the Overcoming Fear Classes at Kaiser in Vallejo. We took my daughter there last year for a phobia, and there were lots of kids (from about 6-13 or so) there with various anxieties and phobias. In addition to lessening her phobia, the class made us all feel less weird about the problem. I would suggest starting with this kind of basic intervention, and then see if more is necessary -- there is an amazing amount that can be accomplished behaviorally, if the child and parents both want to work on it. One of the best parts was how Dr. Liebgold talks about people with fears being more creative/imaginative than other people -- this was very reassuring as reframing for my daughter who was feeling like she was ''weird.'' Dr. Howard Liebgold (nicknamed ''Dr. Fear''), who teaches a course on dealing with anxiety, phobias, and OCD, at Kaiser in Vallejo. anon

8-year-old's rages - is she bipolar?

Oct 2006

Can I get input on what bipolar onset looks like? My 8 year old is starting to have that I would call ''rages'' - yelling, swearing, throwing things, hitting me. She fits some of the characteristics of bipolar - rages, instant mood changes, but not all - she doesn't have adhd like symptoms, does not have issues with sleeping. My question is, at the onset of bipolar is it possible to just have certain symptoms? I know that only 90% of bipolar kids have adhd symptoms, but is it possible to be bipolar without the sleep disturbance? My daughter has a variety of the other symptoms - violent dreams, occasional grandiose thoughts. Can someone give me input on what they saw when they realized that their kid was bipolar? Searching

Before defining your child with a psychiatric disorder, I would suggest, if you aren't already doing so, taking a good hard look at her diet, paying particular attention to what she's eaten just before her rages. We forget that the human body is a very delicate sensitive system, some more than others it seems. We are throwing all sorts of toxic things into these systems and labelling the outcomes as psychiatric disorders. My own son (21 now) could never tolerate sugar - it made him ''crazy''. And other particular things or combinations of things he ate made him less than full of life.

I'm no expert, but I've been around long enough that when I was a kid through young adult I didn't know ANYONE with any of these disorders. The culture generally ate more healthfully than now and we ran around the neighborhood playing freely with friends whenever we could. It really makes me sad that (not you in particular) the cultural trend is towards seeing ourselves as sick and diseased, that medications are advertised so widely in the media, that if we let ourselves, we become victims of pharmaceutical marketing.

PS - I'm not saying these disorders don't exist - just very hard to believe that they exist in such astonishing numbers where they didn't before. Joan

The first diagnositic question will be whether you have mental health issues such as depression on either or both sides of the family. Some people don't discover this until they sit down with their families and ask. The odds that you are dealing with bipolar disorder go up drastically if that is the case, especially if it is both sides of the family. There is some data that there is earlier onset with each generation.

You are describing bipolar symptoms but sleep usually is an issue. A child can be having sleep problems without you knowing about it, however. On the other hand, this could be a totally different problem. Do have her evaluated by a psychologist who specializes in such things, and be ready for the questions about family history.

''The Bipolar Child'' by Drs. Papalos is out in a new edition. If you can, get it and skim it before the evaluation. Mom of bipolar child

I have a 13-year-old and have seen many mental health professionals. It's very confusing because you hear things like, ''We're not saying it's definitely juvenile bipolar but we have to watch for this because it's a possibility.'' The only thing I know for sure is that the doctor you work with is key. We're currently working with Ron Cohen, located near Stanford, a former pediatrician who has a great manner as well as 34 years of experience with troubled kids (and their heartbroken parents). He is the first physician who's really made me feel that our son's issues might be addressable if not curable. I'm remaining anonymous for my son's sake but if you want to email me, I give permission for the moderator to give out my email to you. Been There, Still There But Hopeful

I am concerned in general about how frequently parents on the network seek to find a diagnosis for their children's behavior.

It may be that she is going through a stage or is really angry about something. In my family, I was not allowed to show any negative feelings and I could not confide in anyone. My father, who raised me, would have said, if you asked him, that of course I could confide in him and that we had an open line of communication. But I did not feel that way, and as a result, I would exhibit frequent changes of mood that he did not understand, but which were always related to something very tangible that had happened. This from a very young age. I have no idea what is going on in your family, but I think there is a very narrow field for what is acceptable behaviour and feeling in children, which is addressed in some places with harsh discipline, and in the Bay Area with diagnosis and medication.

8 is very young, it seems to me, and I can't imagine what would consistute ''grandiose thinking'' in a child so young. Some posters describe truly heartbreaking behaviour that is so unmanageable and beyond the average that a diagnosis and treatment seem reasonable. Your post, though it was brief, doesn't sound like one of those to me.

I found this link describing some of the differences between bipolar and ADHD. anon

Hi, I've been diagnosed bipolar for about 20 years. So to answer your question, you don't have to have all the symptoms to be diagnosed bipolar. It's not as cut and dry as media, etc. make it out to be. But the fact that you think your daughter may have grandious thoughts, is something definitely worth investigating. I recommend that you see a psychologist first and then go to a psychiatrist from there. Although there are many kind psychiatrists out there, it's not there job to be as intimately involved with the ins and outs of your daughter's life. This is what a psychologist is for. If you find one you like, they can really make the process much easier for you. I HIGHLY recommend Erika Maslan from Lamorinda Therapy. She is truly gifted with kids and families. She also has a lot of common sense. Her phone number is 925-284-0694. If she is not taking patients, she will only refer you to someone she respects. Best of luck to you. If your daughter is bipolar, treatment will do wonders for her (and your family)! Anon

I hope that you are consulting with at least one psychiatrist who specializes in children as well as posting here. While other parents' experiences are indeed very helpful they are not diagnostic. Only a trained professional can give you the answers you need to your important questions. anon

Things that would be pretty crazy in adults are normal in kids. My seven and a half year old frequently has grandiose thoughts - he has suggested he can do triple backflips, dunk a basketball better than Michael Jordan, and so on. He also thinks he is in charge of the household (there, he may be right). I don't mean to make light of your concerns, but definitely, be careful about applying information regarding adults to your 8 year old. My stepdaughter, in her 20s, is bi-polar, so I know it exists, but it did not manifest itself until her late teens. Anon

8-year-old can't control her anger

Sept 2006

Can anyone recommend a good book to read about anger in children? Disagreements with my almost 8-year old seem to be escalating lately.

Trying to get her to do something she does not want to do can escalate into a yelling and hitting frenzy. This usually occurs when she is stressed (school starting!) or tired and her (and mine!) control is low. At this point, talking to her does not work. We always discuss it afterwards & she acknowledges that it is the wrong thing to do but feels that her anger is so strong that she can't control herself.

I need some help teaching her methods to contain her anger when the problem starts. Suggestions appreciated!

Read Your 8-Year Old, by Louise Bates Ames. Part of a great series, from the Gesell Institute. I expect you'll find it very illuminating. Available in libraries or bookstores all over. writeck

I really appreciated the book ''The Explosive Child'', which had some concrete advice, but almost more importantly, helped reassure me that lots of other families deal with many of the same frustrating issues we deal with -anon

Do we have the same 8-year-old? I was about to post something identical, since my 8-year-old daughter, who turned 8 in January, and I have been experiencing extreme difficulties in our communication and interaction.

In Louise Bates Ames' ''Your Eight-Year-Old,'' she pointed out early and repeatedly that 8-year-olds tend to have great difficulties in their relationships especially with their mother, and that the success or failure of the relationship could affect their relationships with others later on in their lives. Yikes!

I have tried taking away privilegues (no TV for a week, no play dates for a week or sometimes a whole month, etc.) and giving immediate rewards of books, pretty clothes, CD-ROM games, etc. I've also tried telling her in advance, ''We're going to do (chores, homework, etc.) for 15 minutes, and I want us to do it together without fighting. OK?'' She would usually wholeheartedly agree, and hold her temper for about 5-10 minutes until she's so frustrated that she would just explode. Saying ''Remember you've just agreed to...'' would only make things worse, so I now remind her sternly, ''I know you're frustrated, but it doesn't mean that you're allow to be rude or to take it out on me.'' I've also learned to leave the scene quickly before I explode.

All these tactics have worked to a certain degree. I don't know if your 8-year-old behaves the same way, but mine is in general willing to try although quite strong willed and defiant at the same time. Still, she has become so easily frustrated and outraged that I have even thought about seeking profession help to provide her with skills for dealing with her frustration and anger. I look forward to other parents' replies as well. Mom of Another Angry 8-Year-Old

I have worked with a lot of children and adults who have difficulties with anger. Parenting skills are terrific and I work in that way also but sometimes the body is in disharmony and could use a little help to find harmony. I work with an art called Jin Shin Jyutsu and it seems to do the trick. If you are interested, give a call. In any case, good luck. I've been there and I know how hard it is. Leah

This might seem a little off base, but a wise mother of an 8 year old told me that she needed to play a board game with her daughter once a week, and this diminished alot of problems with her daughter. For this particular board game, no siblings were included. Just the 8-year old and mom. Subsequent boardgames could and usually did include siblings. worth a try

I recommend Parenting From Your Heart by Inbal Kashtan, a short book about Nonviolent Communication for parents. I also have a suggestion for how to connect with your daughter more deeply around this.

One, start a conversation when you are both calm and unrushed, in which your primary goal is to listen. For example, you might say, I got that you were feeling really angry yesterday, would you be willing to tell me more?

If she does not want to talk, accept that, and let her know you're not giving up and her, and that if it's okay with her, you'll ask again soon. She may resist, especially if this is a new approach! Please don't give up or take it personally, but do get support for yourself.

Two, if she does begin to talk, listen without expressing judgment, interpretation or analyses, positive or negative. When she pauses, you can ask if she wants to say more, or simply reflect back what you've heard, asking for confirmation: It sounds like you were having so many feelings inside yourself, it was hard to keep still, is that right? Keep breathing, and if it works for you, imagine your heart opening to receive her. It may take practice to stay calm and open.

Three, once you get that she feels heard, ask her, What can we do when you're feeling angry that will meet your needs, and mine? Listen for her ideas. Maybe she gets to beat the couch or thrash on the floor. Maybe you'll take ten deep breaths together. **The point of this part is that she gets a full say in determining something that works for both of you.** Ask, Can I remind you of our agreement the next time this happens? What if any kind of help would it be okay for me to give you?

I have seen that we support them to help self-determine their environment and set behavioral protocol, young people rise to the occasion more often than not. I would love to hear how it goes.

Jill Nagle, Conscious Parenting Alliance, P.S. Our next intro is Sept. 30th, 10AM at Epic Arts, 1923 Ashby, would love you see you and other BPN folks there! We'll be dealing with questions like these live and on-the-spot. Jill

8-year-old's angry attitude

March 2003

I am so depressed that I am close to crying. I told my four year old today that I loved her, and she asked, ''What about Kelly?'', her eight year old sister. I said of course I loved Kelly, and my four year old replied, ''Then why are you angry at her all of the time?'' The fact is, she is right. Kelly is a very hard kid for me to parent, despite the fact that she does very well in school, respects rules and boundaries, is polite in public, and is well liked by peers. Her problem is at home, where everything seems to be a battle. We seem to fight about everything. In addition, her attitude is very negative. Her first response to everything seems to be negative or angry, even if it is something special or an activity picked especially for her. Every transition leads to an outburst, whether it is getting ready for school, sitting down for dinner, brushing her teeth before going to bed, ending a playdate, and so on. I thought she would grow out of this behavior, but it actually seems to be getting worse. Do I need help, or does she? I am starting to feel like an awful parent, in part because I don't know how to make things easier for Kelly, but also because I am starting to resent her behavior and attitude. HELP!

Dear HELP, It sounds a little like you have power struggles with your older girl. We have a smart 3-year old who also challenges us in that way. Recently, a respected individual told me that some children have a certain power about them; if you limit or stymie her power, the child will ultimately rebel. It is best to give the child choices (I give mine two) that you can live with and let her choose. Thus, the child exercises her power to make her own decisions and feels a sense of control in her world. Even a small choice is better than none, e.g., ''You can brush your teeth or I can brush them for you. Which choice do you prefer?'' Or ''You can brush your teeth after dinner or just before bed. What do you want to do?''

TLC (Link to Children) is a non-profit early intervention mental health service org. for families. They have therapists and interns (who are excellent) available who can help you understand why your older daughter may be angry and give you advise on how to handle her behavior in a positive way. I believe, however, this org. may only handle children up to age 5 or 6; if so, ask for a recommendation for organizations that handle older children. Bus. Ofc. 510/261-9586 or Therapy intake 510/247-2411 or linktochild[at] Fees are sliding scale; very affordable. Anonymous

My heart goes out to you. There are some wonderful books I have recently read for my spirited child that were really helpful in understanding behavior and also how to best approach it: - Raising Your Spirited Child (and workbook), by Mary Kurchinka
- Your Ten to Fourteen Year Old, by Louise Ames, Ph.D
- The Strong-Willed Child: Birth Through Adolescence, by Dr. James C. Dobson
- I haven't read this one yet, but I hear that it is good: The New Dare to Discipline, by James C. Dobson


Hi - I have a highly spirited child who seems to share some traits w/yours (very difficult transitions). It is not necessarily something that will be outgrown, but the child and parent can learn about their temperment and how to make life a little easier. At least in the case of my child, he is also one of the most loving people I have ever met, maybe because everything for him is so extreme. But even if you and your child have a more difficult relationship, I recommend you read Raising Your Spirited Child by Kurcinka, and if you find it helpful, re- read parts when you feel at a loss. I think one of the best parts of the book is how she explains the need to work with your emotional connection to get through the rough spots. Good luck to you! anon

Sounds to me like neither you nor your daughter are crazy, just stuck. And you are wise to see it (with the help of your wise 4 year old!). I highly recommend a great read-- Kids, Parents and Power Struggles, by Mary Sheedy Kurcinka. It is a wonderful book, compassionate, informed, practical and wise, and relevant to children (and their parents) of all ages. If a book is not enough to turn things a bit, counseling may be a good idea as a good therapist or family consultant may have some great insights and ideas for you. Meg Zwieback is a good resource. Good luck! Lisa

I have a very similar situation although it is my younger, 6 year old child, not my older 8 year old who causes me grief! Similar to you, my older child asks me why I get so angry at the younger one.

I have found two things recently that have been immensely helpful. I am reading the book ''The Explosive Child'' by Ross Greene which refers to some children as easily frustrated and explosive. Typical discipline techiniques: rewards, time-outs, etc. don't work with these children. The book talks about how to work more successfully with these children. I was referred to the book by a therapist I recently sought out to help me with this child. Her name is Diane Ehrensaft and her practice is in Oakland. She too has been very helpful in giving some advice in just a few sessions. aki

I'm so sorry about your painful battles with your 8-year-old. The answer to your question, ''does she need help, or do I?'' is surely ''Both!''. However, that doesn't necessarily entail each of you shipping out to the nearest psychologist's office. In my own case, horrible child-parent battles were remarkably transformed by a call to my pediatrician and a little bit of childrearing/self-help reading. I hope this won't sound simplistic, but the book ''How to Talk so Your Kids Will Listen...'' gave me some tools that helped me change my own behaviour in ways that seemed to help my daughter immensely. What's more, alhtough we didn't need to go this route, there are apparently weekly local support groups where parents discuss their own kids and their particular challenges, and then help one another practice the techniques laid out in this book. While this may not be the magic bullet for and Kelly, I recommend it as a good, inexpensive, do-it-on-your-own-schedule way to start tackling your problem. I must reiterate, it worked wonders for us. Immensely Relieved Mom

Anger in 8-year-old son

Feb 1999

Over the last few months our almost 8 year old son has been having some difficulty controlling his temper and has had a few instances at school and his after care program where he's hit other kids. We've been having some difficulty getting to the bottom of what's going on since he doesn't find it easy to talk about his feelings. If this behavior continues, we've begun to wonder if it might help him and/or us to see a child therapist/counselor. I'd appreciate any recommendations anyone might have for someone who'd be good at addressing this issue. I'd also be interested if people have tried other strategies for helping boys learn appropriate ways to express anger and frustration. (Of course, we've had endless discussions about the importance of using your words, never hitting, going to an adult for help, etc...) These issues tend to surface mostly on the playground when he and his friends are playing sports, a situation which seems to involve lots of opportunity for agression, frustration and hurt feelings. Thanks!


Replies posted in Recommendations: Therapists for Adolescents


8-year-old's noisy tantrums

July 2002

There's currently a discussion going on about coping with ''older'' kid tantrums, and I'd like to expand the topic a little. Our 8-year-old still has rather frequent, extended, and loud tantrums. Anything can set them off (i.e., he wants to live in a house with stairs, he wanted to be served breakfast first, he wants today to be Christmas, etc.). He kicks things, throws, screams, squeals, cries and yells. We've worked with a behaviorist - and recently (and effectively) with a sand-play psychologist to give him the support he needs.

We love him dearly and he's a wonderful kid. My real problem is the neighbors and how they might react. We have several in close proximity, but one childless couple in particular seems to feel they run the neighborhood. Of course, their house is just steps away from ours. About a year ago, a cop showed up because an ''anonymous'' neighbor who heard a lot of crying reported that our kids were being abused. Fortunately, the tantrum they had heard had abated - and the cop was really cool - even saying that one of his kids had similar behaviors. However, I am constantly concerned that they'll call the cops again or even Protective Services

We've lived in this neighborhood for several years, but don't really know the neighbors. None of them have children. They're never in their front yards, so there's no opportunity for a casual conversation to get to know each other. Short of ringing doorbells, I have no way of striking up a conversation. And... even if I do... how do I introduce the topic and start explaining to them something that I consider to be very private?

We try really hard to be considerate neighbors - always telling the kids to lower their voices (even outside), no loud music, no outside play in the early mornings, etc. We're acutely aware that everything we say, even in a conversational tone, can be overheard if the windows are open. Any thoughts, though, on what to do if they kids' screams are misinterpreted? Mom with Ear Plugs

I think it is okay, and neccesary, to visit the neighbors so that they can get to know you. Even one meeting is better than none. If they don't know you, they are more likely to call the police.

I would go to all of the neighbors close enough to hear my children. I'd introduce myself and just tell them a little about my family: i.e., we have small children who are noisy. I'd also ask them if they have heard the children and if the noise bothered them (they will be more approachable if they don't feel attacked and if you approach them from a position of trying to help improve their lives). Encourage them not to be polite and make them feel safe enough to tell you the truth. Let them say, ''Well, I go to work early and the screaming really interrupts my sleep'', etc. You can then assure them that you are working hard to keep the kids quiet, and you can educate them about how this is a developmental thing that your son is working through.

I'm sure that just allowing them to vent will keep them from causing you trouble by calling the police. You need to put a face to your little guy - if they know him and his well- intentioned parents, they may not be so eagar to make you miserable, because they can ruin your life if they begin calling child protective services repeatedly. Christina

I felt like you were writing my story, or at least partly. I have an almost 8 year old son who tantrums LOUDLY. I also stress about my neighbor's reaction. Although many of my neighbors do have children, none of them behave like my son!! Recently while tantruming my son has started using the most colorful language imaginable. So there he is in his bedroom with the window that opens out to the front of the house SCREAMING stuff that would make a sailor blush. I wish I could not worry about what my neighbors think about my parenting, but it is hard to let go of.

Sometimes I use holding time with him during a tantrum if I have the energy to go through it (often it helps, sometimes it doesn't). When I hold him, he will squirm and wrestle to get away, and he will tell me I am hurting him (OK, I know that sounds awful, but it is actually a gentle but firm holding and it is a therapeutic intervention). This is when I really get worried about having the cops called, him screaming (in the room with the window) You're hurting me!! Let go of me!! etc.. During holding time, I sit behind him and hold his arms with my hands, and wrap my legs around his legs (OK, OK, really it is therapeutic). One time he jerked to the side and my leg ended up in his crotch . . . . YOURE HURTING MY PENIS!!!!. I guess in some ways the scary thing is that nobody has called the cops . . . My son is adopted, I can only look forward with glee to the day when he adds the You're NOT MY MOTHER!! to his repertoire, especially if I am trying to manage an episode out in public . . .

There is a loose knit parenting support group that meets at Saul's in Berkeley every other week (I believe one of the members just re-posted in the announcements newsletter), and we recently discussed our fear of having the cops called when dealing with our children's explosive behavior. We decided that we should be issued cards from our kids' therapists :-)

The only suggestion I have, which I just realized I might try as well, is to write a brief note to your neighbors, giving them a very simple explination and thanking them for their patience. I mean if I had a child who was deaf or blind, I would want my neighbors to know of my child's difference. In some ways this is a similar situation.

Beyond that I can only offer reasurance, that if child protective services is called, they do not take children away without significant effidence that the child is in danger. Beyond the hassle and possible embarassment, there should not be any threat to your family from them. Good luck!!

PS: I would love to know who you use for play therapy if you are willing to email me that.