High Energy & Physical School-Aged Kids

Questions & Responses:
Very physical 6-yo(3 responses)
Archived Responses: 

6-year-old too rough, loses control, hurts his friends

April 2006

We need some help with our 6 year old son. We have had some trouble with him since he was little with hitting other kids (and pushing, etc.). Not much more than other children do, but he was bigger than most of them (he is large for his age still), so he would sometimes hurt them. I was, of course, horrified every time it happened. This situation did get better  with a strict "no hitting ever" policy with swift repercussions (leaving wherever we were, taking away of privileges, etc.). While I say it is much better, it is still an issue, even at 6. Sometimes, esp. when he is around his friends, he just seems to lose control. We are constantly having to reprimand him (put that down, don't play so rough, stop running, get off the chair, etc.). And not just one time, but over and over again. Now, what has happened is that this uncontrollable behavior is now becoming the thing that defines him. It has gotten so bad, that he is no longer allowed to play with one of his friends because his friend was hurt the last time they played together, and his mom is afraid for him. Here's the worst part: when I explained to him that he would no longer be able to play with his friend, I told him that it wasn't because he was a bad boy, it was because his friend's parents and his parents decided that they didn't play well together. I did tell him that he played too roughly for his friend. Well, then my son said, Mommy, I think you're wrong about me, I think I am a bad boy. He had said that before (worrying that he was a bad boy), but never in quite the same way that seemed so sad and as if he was resigning himself to the truth. Another incident has happened since then and he said it again. I explained to him that it was his behavior we were unhappy with and that I know that in his heart he is a good, sweet, gentle and loving boy, but that he needed to learn how to be gentler with his body. He kept crying and saying, "If I keep doing bad things, I must be a bad boy". So, here I have a 6-year-old who is already questioning himself! I feel like the worst mother on earth!

All that said, I have just spoken with someone at the Ann Martin Center and it sounds like a great place (that is also somewhat affordable) for us to figure out what is going on. I wanted t see if anyone has some similar experience with them that they might share. Or, if you have had a similar situation with your child and had some other advice or recommendation to share, that would be fabulous too! I am completely distraught and losing sleep over this and don't know what to do! I really hope someone can help.

I don't have any experience with the Ann Martin Center. But your son clearly needs an assessment by a neuropsychologist to see what is going on. He could have a sensory integration problem where he literally does know how hard he is doing things. He also could have impulse control issues or problems detecting social cues. If the center doesn't work, try Quest in San Ramon. They are outstanding for this kind of thing. Bite the bullet and spend the money now, your problems will just escalate and his self-image will deteriorate. In the meantime you might try reading ''The Out-of-Sync Child'' - an excellent primer on the topic. anon

I can't speak to Ann Martin's Children's Center, but I can tell you I was the same sort of child your son was. I liked to play very rough, even too rough for most boys (I was a girl). When I found someone who liked to play as rough as I did, someone always got hurt. And I thought I was a bad kid because of it. What my parents did was get me involved in lots of sports so I would have an outlet for (some of) my energy. I did swimming year-round, an hour a day when I was 6, up to four hours a day in high school. I played Little League and soccer, did gymnastics, rode my bike everywhere, climbed trees, went running with a friend and his father, etc. I wasn't always so rough after that because I spent a lot of energy in more constructive ways. High energy isn't bad

Distraught mother - I can certainly understand how terrible this must be for you. Any parent would feel distraught in your circumstances. I have heard good things about the Ann Martin Center, but they were in relation to tutoring for dyslexia and reading issues, so I can't speak to their abilities to help with your issues. One suggestion (if you haven't already done this) would be to call your pediatrician and describe the issues your son is having. He/she should be able to give you a recommendation or referral to a behavioral pediatrician that could assess your son and provide recommendations. I hope you are able to get help soon. Don't blame yourself - you are doing the right things - most importantly getting help for your son whatever it takes. Empathetic mom